Physicians? views and experiences of defensive medicine: An international review of empirical research

Nola M. Ries*, Jesse Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

This study systematically maps empirical research on physicians' views and experiences of hedging-type defensive medicine, which involves providing services (eg, tests, referrals) to reduce perceived legal risks. Such practices drive over-treatment and low value healthcare. Data sources were empirical, English-language publications in health, legal and multi-disciplinary databases. The extraction frame-work covered: where and when the research was conducted; what methods of data collection were used; who the study participants were; and what were the study aims, main findings in relation to hedging-type defensive practices, and proposed solutions.

79 papers met inclusion criteria. Defensive medicine has mainly been studied in the United States and European countries using quantitative surveys. Surgery and obstetrics have been key fields of investiga-tion. Hedging-type practices were commonly reported, including: ordering unnecessary tests, treatments and referrals; suggesting invasive procedures against professional judgment; ordering hospitalisation or delaying discharge; and excessive documentation in medical records. Defensive practice was often framed around the threat of negligence lawsuits, but studies recognised other legal risks, including patient complaints and regulatory investigations. Potential solutions to defensive medicine were identified at macro (law, policy), meso (organisation, profession) and micro (physician) levels.

Areas for future research include qualitative studies to investigate the behavioural drivers of defensive medicine and intervention research to determine policies and practices that work to support clinicians in de-implementing defensive, low-value care.

(c) 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-642
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy
Volume125
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Defensive medicine
  • Low value care
  • Clinical decision-making
  • Legal aspects
  • Review
  • MALPRACTICE LITIGATION
  • TRAUMA SURGEONS
  • NEUROSURGERY
  • PREVALENCE
  • RESIDENTS
  • IMPACT
  • FEAR
  • GASTROENTEROLOGISTS
  • QUESTIONNAIRE
  • LAWSUITS

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