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How Do We Stop Unnecessary Medical Tests?

Last week, it was reported that health care spending increased sharply, mostly due to Americans using health coverage they received through Obamacare Medicaid.

With more people accessing health care, we should expect more unnecessary medical procedures and tests. These procedures will tax the health care system and add additional costs without helping patients.

According to an ABIM Foundation's survey, 75% of doctors said unnecessary tests and procedures are a serious problem, and 72% said that the average medical doctor prescribes an unnecessary test at least once a week. 

Why is this happening? Much of it is because doctors practice defensive medicine to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits. This drives up health care costs. Doctors estimate that 26% of health care costs are due to defensive medicine, according to a 2010 Gallup poll.  In addition, an April 2014 Jackson Healthcare survey found that 94% of hospital administrators believe defensive medicine adds to health care costs.

Medical liability reform would reduce defensive medicine, as a 2013 U.S. Chamber Health Care Solutions Council report explains:

The medical liability system must be reformed to give health care providers more support in delivering high-value care. Current liability laws often encourage overtreatment and can reduce access to needed specialty services instead of supporting high-value care. Medical liability reform is critical to lowering health care costs without compromising quality. Important reforms include placing caps on damage awards and other previously proposed reforms, as well as "health courts" and presumptions or safe harbors based on evidence-based medical practice guidelines, demonstrated patterns of safe and high-quality care.

Unfortunately, Obamacare did nothing to reform the medical liability system.

We need medical liability reform in order to reduce unnecessary tests and procedures that don't help patients. We will be better off spending heath care dollars on improving value, not on defending against possible lawsuits.

Since I'm on the subject of increasing value in our health care system, the U.S. Chamber will host an event on Friday, May 9 on private sector success stories.

Photographer: Phillip Jeffrey/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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