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Physicians are too defensive
3/7/2012
 
In a recent HealthLeaders Media survey, 58% of physician leaders said they ordered a test or procedure for primarily defensive medicine reasons in the past year.

At about the same time, a separate survey in Health Affairs revealed that approximately 20% of physicians won't tell patients about errors because of fear of malpractice litigation. Also, as many as 55% did not disclose all details of a patient’s health to the patient.

Clearly, the threat of being sued is a major influence on how physicians practice medicine. Research shows physicians who are candid with patients have a lower risk of being sued, but physicians are not convinced.

“The more open you are in talking about errors, the less likely patients are going to pursue litigation, and the more likely you are going to gain the trust of patients, and be able to move forward in a therapeutic way," Lisa Iezzoni, MD, M.Sc, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and director of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, told HealthLeaders Media.

Among other things, informing patients about the errors can "reduce anger," she adds. "If you talk openly to patients in situations where errors happened, it makes patients understand better what happened, why it happened and makes them less likely to pursue litigation as a solution to it."