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Does increased spending increase quality of care?

New, attention-grabbing research out of the British Medical Journal has indicated that specialists who spent more on patient care were less likely to be sued for medical malpractice. The study looked at 24,000 physicians in Florida over nine years. Researchers published their findings on November 4, 2015. 

The study gets at the heart of the practice of "defensive medicine," in which doctors attempt to limit their legal liability for failing to diagnose a patient by throwing every test, scan and any other available tool into diagnosing a patient's condition. 

But there are important things to note about the study before anyone can reach a sure conclusion. First, there were several significant limitations to the study, including the fact that only Florida doctors were analyzed. In addition, the study did not account for the differences in severity of illnesses of individual patients. And while the study noted a correlation between higher-spending physicians and fewer lawsuits, there is no real indication why. 

On the one hand, it makes sense that doctors should use all of the information and medical tools available to treat patients. On the other, the effectiveness of "defensive medicine" in treating patients remains uncertain, at best. So how should patients feel about doctors charging them more for tests they may or may not need?

Ultimately, good medical care comes down to individual cases. Patients are unique, and the more hospitals, medical facilities and doctors treat patients individually, the less likely they are to fail to properly diagnose an illness. Whether that involves using every diagnostic tool in the book or taking the time to explain symptoms to a patient depends on the circumstances, and the patient, involved. 

If you believe you suffered from a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal options and next steps.  

Source: The Washington Post: Why health reform might increase malpractice lawsuits" Carolyn Y. Johnson, November 4, 2015.

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