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Study on medical malpractice spawns more questions than answers

If a little of something is a good thing, than a lot of it must be better. That’s a common perception perhaps, but it’s also something any Texas child who has eaten too much candy will tell you is not always true.

When it comes to health care, it is generally proposed that high quality of care is better than the quantity of services that are provided. But it is also generally believed that doctors are often motivated to overuse medical resources or perform unnecessary procedures to limit the risk of their being sued for alleged medical errors.

Well, now there’s a study that suggests there might be something to that belief. The problem, according to some observers, is that the results raise more questions than provide answers.

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted the analysis. They tracked some 24,000 Florida doctors in six specialties over a nine-year stretch of time and found that, in general, those that spent the most on hospitalized patients faced a lower chance of being sued for medical malpractice.

But the researchers and critics alike say the findings reflect only a correlation. Nothing in the results indicate whether patterns of resource overuse caused a reduction in malpractice actions. Nor do the numbers show if the overuse even resulted in fewer medical mistakes.

So the conclusion seems to be that, while the results are interesting, there’s a need for more in-depth study on the issue.

That may be particularly called for when you consider that one of the major goals of current health care reform is focused on lowering costs by emphasizing quality of care over quantity.

Source: The Washington Post, “Why health reform might increase malpractice lawsuits,” Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 4, 2015