Doctors' fear of lawsuits takes a hefty financial toll

Defensive medicine accounts for 26 percent of the nation's healthcare costs--one in four dollars, according to a new six-week, national Gallup survey of physicians sponsored by Atlanta-based healthcare management company Jackson Healthcare. With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now estimating the annual price tag of American healthcare at a hefty $2.5 trillion, defensive medicine drains some $650 billion per year out of the healthcare system.

Defensive medicine is the practice of ordering unnecessary tests and treatments to limit potential patient lawsuits. Seventy-three percent of the surveyed physicians admitted to practicing some form of defensive medicine over the past 12 months. "Doctors order unnecessary medical care because they are in fear that one mistake could wipe out everything they've ever worked for," says Richard Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare. "If we eliminate defensive medicine, we can make healthcare more affordable for everyone."

Jackson Healthcare released the survey results in conjunction with the Center for Health Transformation, a think tank founded by former Congressman Newt Gingrich that has espoused civil justice reform via various avenues, including the creation of health courts that handle only medical malpractice cases.

To learn more about the poll results:
- read the Jackson Healthcare press release