When medical errors result in adverse patient outcomes, many healthcare professionals are concerned about malpractice litigation. Fear of malpractice has been associated with excessive health care use through defensive medicine, which involves doctors ordering additional testing or making extra referrals to protect themselves from malpractice accusations.
The authors of this study in JAMA Network Open aimed to examine the perspectives of doctors on patient harm and malpractice litigation. They conducted an online survey targeting all emergency department attending physicians and advanced practice clinicians (APCs) in acute care hospitals across Massachusetts from January to September 2020.
The results showed that although clinicians feared legal action, they feared harming patients to a greater degree regardless of specialty, experience or sex.