Where is the concern for the patients?
I read an article today that discusses a very large increase in the number of diagnostic tests ordered each year. One of the doctors quoted in the article of course blamed the medical malpractice system. Pay particular attention to the last line quoted below:
But, Dr. Levon Nazarian, a professor of radiology and vice chairman for education at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, suspects other motives lie behind the growing use of scans.
For one thing, ER doctors are under pressure to get patients discharged as quickly as possible, he said. By ordering an imaging test, doctors think they can get a quicker diagnosis and move the patient out of the emergency department faster, he said.
Another factor, one which he said is key, is increased fear of lawsuits. "Doctors will say, 'I need this test for my own peace of mind. If I don't do this test I may get sued,'" he added.
Too bad doctors don’t say: “I need this test for my own peace of mind. If I don’t do this test, I may misdiagnose the patient.” Instead, we’ve got another doctor who acknowledges the reality that many doctors are more concerned about not being sued than about providing optimal care to their patients.
I truly wish some organization would conduct a survey of doctors and ask the following question:
“Have you ever ordered a diagnostic test primarily out of fear of being sued, but then altered your treatment because the results of the test surprised you?”
That’s the metric that matters.