For the first time, a Pennsylvania research study looked at whether tests recommended to patients are actually needed. Specifically, the study was administered to determine whether costly tests such as CT scans and MRIs are beneficial to the patient.

The results of the study showed 20 percent of the tests that doctors ordered were ordered because the doctor was afraid of a medical malpractice claim. This statistic is limited to bone and joint specialists, not all doctors in general. However, this does show that patients may undergo unnecessary tests if their doctor fears a lawsuit.

The study itself had 72 doctors across the state of Pennsylvania keep track of what tests they ordered for patients. In order to track the purpose for the ordered tests, doctors were asked to note whether the test was required for the patient’s health or done for defensive reasons. Over 2,000 patients were seen throughout the study in a variety of different settings.

Some patients may not think twice about an additional test or two. More often, people are concerned about their health and desire the best care possible. But what they may not realize is that these additional tests drive up their medical bills when the cost could have been avoided.

These tests can also have a negative impact on the patient’s health, especially over time. Certain tests such as CT scans can give off heavy doses of radiation that can increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer. It seems that if these tests are unnecessary, patients should not be ordered to have the tests administered.

Ultimately, a patient that develops cancer in connection with the high doses of radiation will be forced to deal with even worse medical conditions. If doctors are administering unnecessary tests that are causing injury to the patient, that could also be grounds for medical malpractice.

Source: Associated Press online, “Study: Doctors order tests out of fear of lawsuits,” 16 February 2011