Leaders Weigh in on Defensive Medicine

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 20, 2012

Helen M. Kuroki, MD
Vice President of Medical Affairs

Riddle Hospital, Main Line Health System, headquartered in Bryn Mawr, PA

As physicians and healthcare leaders, patient safety should be our primary concern when treating each and every patient. Unfortunately, we find that many physicians are forced to practice "defensive medicine" to avoid the possibility of being charged as negligent in a lawsuit. This practice comes in many forms, from ordering extra tests to performing additional procedures on patients.

While the threat of medical malpractice presents an enormous problem for physicians from the standpoint of both cost and reputation, it is often the patient who is impacted, spending time and money to undergo procedures that may not be medically necessary.  As a result, the United States has spent billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs.

In general, I believe medical malpractice is in need of an overhaul. It is a selective and expensive process that does not allow fair representation for all cases, does not provide appropriate and timely compensation to deserving patients and families, and does not address the critical issue of physicians who are repeatedly sued for the right reasons and should no longer be permitted to practice medicine.

As healthcare leaders, change will only come if we work together and with our legislators to insist on the enactment of meaningful tort reform.

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