Do you remember the old episodes of ER when it seemed someone was always getting slapped with a malpractice suit? These claims are a pretty big deal in the real-world, too, and providers want to steer clear of them as much as possible. But are they going too far?

A 2014 study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal estimates the indirect costs associated with defensive medicine in the United States to be $46 billion each year. The defensive approach to medicine can consist of administering any treatment methods that aren’t considered medically necessary – from ordering extra tests or medications to adding more time on to a hospital stay – in an effort to avert the possibility of malpractice litigation.

But who ultimately pays the price for these excessive measures? Seems to me it’s the patient. Someone has to shell out the dollars for all the extra scans and treatments being administered, and oftentimes, these add-ons aren’t the basic, low-cost kind. We’re talking things like advanced imaging and body scans on some of today’s most high-tech machines. And to that end, what about X-rays exposing you to radiation or medications with such potent ingredients? Why put anything so strong in your body if it’s not truly medically necessary? Plus, in addition to cost and well-being, think of the time issue. We often feel that we don’t get enough one-on-one interaction with our providers as it is, so imagine how many hours all of this additional testing and examination consumes from their already busy schedules.

When it comes to medical care, you have to be your own advocate. Ask questions. Are all of these procedures really necessary or do they amount to another example of defensive medicine?

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