medwireNews: Around one-eighth of all requests for tests and procedures by gastroenterologists are attributable to the practice of defensive medicine, Italian research shows.
The authors say that the rapid increase in malpractice and negligence lawsuits in recent years has led to the widespread practice of defensive medicine, in which physicians make clinical decisions in order to avoid litigation, and which are not necessarily in the best interests of the patient.
Indeed, 93.8\% of the 64 gastroenterologists questioned in the study admitted to the behavior, with two (3.1\%) even saying it was the only criteria they used to make decisions in daily practice.
"[Our results] clearly show that [defensive medicine] is now a well established way of thinking in the decision making process of gastroenterologists, and that it represents a significant cost that could prove to be a very heavy burden in the currently critical economic situation," say Luca Elli (University of Milan) and colleagues.
On average, gastroenterologists requested 8.9 defensive procedures per month, including colonoscopies, endoscopies, imaging, and consultations. Additionally, they reported performing an average of 76.5 procedures per month as a result of the referring physicians performing defensive medicine.
The authors estimate that defensive medicine accounted for 11\% of monthly costs for procedures and that, when costs for requests and procedures performed were combined, the average monthly cost of defensive medicine was