Too Much Healthcare Can Cause Harm Instead of Healing

Laura Woods | December 18th, 2013

Medical Liability - Too Much Healthcare Can Harm PatientsWhile many patients are hoping the Affordable Care Act will give them necessary access to healthcare, others face a very different problem ─ an abundance of unnecessary healthcare services, which may have a deleterious effect on patients’ health.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that approximately 30 percent of all healthcare expenditures in America are for unneeded care.

Even doctors themselves have acknowledged this issue. In a 2011 survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 42 percent of American primary care physicians recognized their patients were receiving more care than needed. The doctors’ cite a fear that something will unexpectantly go wrong as the motivator behind the additional care.

 Unnecessary care as a medical liability

Excessive testing is most commonly seen in a surplus of specialist referrals, extra diagnostic testing, or more prescriptions than necessary. However, sometimes it actually leads to additional treatments or surgeries which can cause more harm than good.

While certain diagnostic procedures can be very helpful to patients who need them, needlessly exposing people to extra testing can actually cause harm, as many techniques involve exposure to radiation and other potentially dangerous processes. This can sometimes cause a waterfall effect: if the first test produces a false positive or unclear result, it can lead to even more invasive, unnecessary testing.

While many doctors order excessive tests as out of genuine concern for their patients, to make sure they’ve covered all the bases, others have grown extra cautious to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits.

Profiting on unnecessary care

Still, others may be ordering an abundance of tests to churn out extra profits. Many physicians receive financial incentives for every service performed, which may serve as a motivator to go above and beyond what’s necessary.

In October, the New England Journal of Medicine reported the “self-referral effect,” among urologists treating patients for prostate care. The study found that doctors were much more likely to order radiation therapy for patients if they had ownership in the radiation services they were offering. Between 2005 to 2010, the use of radiation therapy by self-referring private practice urologists rose by 19.2 percent, compared with 1.3 percent with their non self-referring peers.

Earlier this year, a report by the United States Government Accountability Office, examined referral rates for biopsies between 2004 to 2010, finding that referrals for biopsies more than doubled for self-referring physicians, while increasing just 38 percent for those who referred outside their own practices. Similar findings have been found for physicians in other specialties as well.

Self-referrals are not all bad. They help physicians to diagnosis patients with legitimate conditions is a much quicker and efficient manner. However, those who abuse the system are becoming a medical liability to patients.

Many physician groups have recognized the problem and are working hard to initiate change. For example, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation has created a Choosing Wisely campaign to help combat this issue. However, it is expected to be quite some time before this pattern is stopped completely.

Misdiagnosis lawsuits in New York

If you’ve been misdiagnosed in New York City, it’s important to know your rights. Malpractice settlements are being won in New York, but it is crucial to consult a lawyer to determine your eligibility to pursue compensation.

Our medical malpractice attorneys have more than four decades of experience working with clients in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and Long Island to ensure justice is served. If need a New York medical malpractice lawyer, contact The Sanders Firm today for a free evaluation of your case. Call toll free at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY (1-800-324-7752).