U.S. orthopedic surgeons waste $2.1 billion annually in ordering unnecessary tests and diagnostic procedures to defend against potential malpractice accusations, according to a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Billions wasted on defensive medicine: study
Researchers polled 2,000 orthopedic surgeons picked randomly from a list provided by the Rosemont, Ill.-based American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and 96% answered that they practiced defensive medicine. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of all imaging studies, lab tests, consultations and hospital admissions for the respondents were ordered or conducted for defensive reasons, according to the researchers.
Using AMA billing codes for reference, according to an e-mailed news release from Vanderbilt, the researchers calculated that an orthopedic surgeon spends about $8,495 monthly on defensive medicine—around 25% of their total practice costs. That's $101,820 annually per surgeon.
The results were published in February's issue of the American Journal of Orthopedics. The rising costs of healthcare bothered researchers and served as a catalyst for conducting the survey.
"We believe an evidence-based approach is the best approach," Dr. Manish Sethi, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt and lead researcher on the study, said in a news release. "If we can develop standards of practice that are accepted across the nation, physicians won't need to order these additional X-rays and MRIs to protect themselves, and we know costs will go down."
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