Defensive medicine: Growing problem among young physicians

May 3, 2010
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According to a national survey of physicians conducted by Atlanta-based Jackson Healthcare,* most physicians between the ages of 25 and 34 (83%) report that they are being taught to practice defensive medicine in medical school or residency by an attending physician or mentor.

“Older physicians are sharing lawsuit stories and advice with younger physicians,” reports Richard Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare. “These stories are convincing younger physicians to practice defensive medicine.”

The survey data suggest that the practice of defensive medicine is growing, indicated by the fact that fewer physicians in older age brackets responded that they were taught defensive medicine in medical school or residency: 63% for ages 35 to 44, 47% for ages 45 to 54, 32% for ages 55 to 64, and 19% for age 65 and older.

The Jackson survey also revealed that, in addition to increasing the cost of healthcare, defensive medicine practices limit patient access and quality of care, slow the adoption of medical innovations, and discourage future generations from pursuing a career in medicine.

“This is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at state and national levels,” says Jackson.

*Survey methodology: In March 2009, Jackson Healthcare conducted a Web-based survey of 1,407 physicians, with a response rate of 1.13% of 124,572 invitations distributed. The survey has an error range of ±1.7% at the 95% confidence level.