Recently, Gallup published the results of a study showing that a whopping 26% of our healthcare costs cover “defensive medicine.”

If you’re not familiar with this term, think about the times your doctor has ordered a test for you that seems a little on the “iffy” side – you’re not quite sure what the test is for, or you’ve been through it before, and it seems like a big waste of time to you. But you dutifully follow the doctor’s orders because, after all, insurance is paying for it anyway.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve insisted on a test that gave your doctor cause for pause. You didn’t want to go to the effort of getting a second opinion so you insisted – and your doctor relented, and then off you went… for a CAT scan, MRI, stress test, or blood work.

In these scenarios, the undercurrent driving tests and procedures is fear – fear in your doctor’s heart that if any possible stone is left unturned, you, dear patient, will see your doctor in court.

You must be wondering why this concerns us at The Care Partner Project. What does defensive medicine have to do with patient safety?

Here’s our take on the connection —

  • When doctors feel defensive, they don’t have the luxury to feel introspective too. It’s a common-sense fact — the two emotions simply don’t coexist peacefully in a single caring soul.
  • If doctors can’t be introspective, they can’t get to “sorry” when they make an error (as all humans do sometimes – despite their very best efforts and intentions.)
  • If doctors can’t get to sorry, they can’t learn from their mistakes. They can’t become better doctors and better human beings.

So, while money and cost should be a concern for all of us, we should care just as much about the caretaker — who will then do a better job of taking care of us.

Let’s break the vicious circle of defensive medicine. Let’s start building a caring circle of better, safer medicine.