Doctors Admit that Overtreatment is Commonplace
A new study published in PLOS, a nonprofit online research database, shows that from the physician perspective, overtreatment of patients is common. At the same time, the study revealed that most physicians in the United States believe that overtreatment is both harmful and wasteful.
The results of the study are staggering. 2,106 physicians from an online community composed of doctors from the American Medical Association (AMA) masterfile participated in a survey. Doctors said on average that 20.6% of overall medical care was unnecessary, including 22% of prescription medications, 24.9% of diagnostic tests, and 11.1% of procedures. In addition, 84.7% cited fear of medical malpractice as the main reason for overtreatment, while 59% mentioned patient pressure as a cause, and 38.2% considered difficulty accessing medical records a source of the problem. The questionnaire also asked “What do you think is the percentage of physicians who perform unnecessary procedures when they profit from them?” 70.8% said profit is a significant driver of unnecessary procedures for doctors.
While the study indicated a fear of medical malpractice as a top reason for overtreatment, that fear is exaggerated, the authors say. According to research only 2 to 3 percent of patients pursue litigation, and paid claims have declined sharply in recent decades.