Free Article: Defensive Medicine in Neurosurgery: Does State-Level Liability Risk Matter?

BACKGROUND: Defensive medicine is prevalent among US neurosurgeons due to the high risk of malpractice claims. This study provides national estimates of US neurosurgeons’ defensive behaviors and perceptions.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship of defensive medicine—both “assurance” behaviors and “avoidance” behaviors—to the liability environment.

METHODS: A 51-question online survey was sent to 3344 US neurosurgeon members of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons (ABNS). The survey was anonymous and conducted over 6 weeks in the spring of 2011. The previously validated questionnaire contained questions on neurosurgeon, patient, and practice characteristics; perceptions of the liability environment; and defensive-medicine behaviors. Bivariate and multivariate analyses examined the state liability risk environment as a predictor of a neurosurgeon’s likelihood of practicing defensive medicine.

RESULTS: A total of 1026 neurosurgeons completed the survey (31% response rate). Neurosurgeons’ perceptions of their state’s liability environment generally corresponded well to more objective measures of state-level liability risk because 83% of respondents correctly identified that they were practicing in a high-risk environment. When controlling for surgeon experience, income, high-risk patient load, liability history, and type of patient insurance, neurosurgeons were 50% more likely to practice defensive medicine in high-risk states compared with low-risk-risk states (odds ratio: 1.5, P < .05).

CONCLUSION: Both avoidance and assurance behaviors are prevalent among US neurosurgeons and are correlated with subjective and objective measures of state-level liability risk. Defensive medicine practices do not align with patient-centered care and may contribute to increased inefficiency in an already taxed health care system.

From: Defensive Medicine in Neurosurgery: Does State-Level Liability Risk Matter? by Smith et al.

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