‘Defensive medicine’ increases costs for military patients, Duke, MIT study says

The National Bureau of Economic Research posted a new report from researchers at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University and Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology detailing the cost of “defensive medicine,” or the practice of administering extra medical tests to avoid potential malpractice suits, the New York Times reported.

 The report focused on active-duty military members the Military Health System, and analyzed data from the Military Health System Data Repository maintained by the MHS.

Here are the key details from the report:

1. The researchers targeted the MHS due to patients’ inability to sue government physicians for malpractice. However, the family of active duty members of the military can sue when being treated by the MHS.

2. The researchers found the possibility of a lawsuit increased the amount of healthcare a patient received, even when being treated by the MHS.

3. Patients who received extra care did not experience better outcomes, suggesting when doctors do extra testing to avoid liability, they are not necessarily making their patients healthier.

4. The study also looked at what happened to the care the patients received when they used their benefits at civilian facilities after a base closed. The researchers found the cost of their healthcare increased, particularly on diagnostic tests.

Click here to read the full study

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