Defensive medicine as a response to medical malpractice liability in the United States

The Foundation's Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization program was designed to support research, demonstration, and evaluation projects examining major changes in health care financing.In this particular study, the researchers will conduct the second phase of a two-part project which examines the costs of defensive medicine. In the first phase of the project previously supported by the Foundation, the researchers constructed a database of tort signals and health claims data from CIGNA HealthCare. The tort signals - medical malpractice premiums and the number of malpractice suits filed in a physician's geographic area - are factors which may be viewed by physicians as indicators of litigation risk. In phase two of the study, the researchers will conduct analyses of the tort signals and claims data in order to: (1) quantify costs associated with positive defensive medicine in the United States for the complete spectrum of medical care; (2) identify specific clinical conditions for which positive defensive medicine exists and quantify defensive medicine costs for each of these conditions; and (3) identify the specific types of services and resources (e.g., medications) associated with defensive medicine in each identified condition. The objective of the project is to measure the degree to which fears of medical malpractice litigation motivates physicians to practice positive defensive medicine, which includes ordering tests, procedures, and/or medications that offer little or no clinical benefit to patients.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $288,724.00

Awarded on: 5/22/2008

Time frame: 6/1/2008 - 2/28/2010

Grant Number: 64578


University of Southern Maine, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service

15 Baxter Boulevard
P.O. Box 9300
Portland, 04104-9300


J. William Thomas
Project Director