Watch CBSN Live

Americans get too much health care, doctors say

sad doctor
How many hospital patients are injured or killed as a result of hospital errors? "We do not really know how many people die or suffer needlessly," says Dr. Peter Pronovost, medical director of the Center for Innovations in Quality Patient Care at Johns Hopkins University. "We know it's a lot." According to one estimate, 100,000 people die each year from infections they acquire in the hospital. And scores of thousands die as a result of wrong diagnoses or mistakes in treatment. istockphoto

(CBS) At a time when many Americans say they're having trouble getting good health care, a new survey of doctors said just the opposite.

Pictures: Health insurance horror stories

A poll of 627 primary care physicians showed that nearly half believe their patients in their medical practice are getting too much unnecessary care, prompting the survey's authors to call for reform of the industry.

The survey - published in the September 26 issue of the Archives of internal Medicine - showed that only 6 percent of doctors felt patients received too little care.

Why? Because the surveyed docs feel they're paid to do more tests - but if they don't do enough?

A malpractice suit.

More than 80 percent of surveyed doctors felt they'd get sued for not ordering a related test.

"I would say most doctors probably feel somewhat helpless when they're expected to practice defensive medicine and check off a whole bunch of boxes," Dr. Calvin Chou, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote an accompany commentary, told HealthDay."I think when you're running scared all the time... more and more doctors feel like they're under the gun and are less likely to be able to rise above it."

Is there any way to reverse the trend?

The study authors say it's possible if health care systems change the ways doctors get paid. Reimbursements be based on longer primary care physician visits with lots of follow-up by phone or email, rather than how many diagnostic tests they run, study author Dr. Brenda E. Sirovich, assistant professor of medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said in a written statement.

Should patients care? If doctors are making big bucks from insurers to run more tests, and patients are getting a lot of diseases ruled out, what's the big deal?

Because needless tests can cause health problems, according to Sirovich. For example, if a patient goes in for back pain but blood tests find his/her blood pressure is slightly high, the doctor may feel it necessary to prescribe treatment, though it may not be medically necessary.

"When you do anything to somebody, whether it is an intervention or a test, you are putting them in to the healthcare system in a way that exposes them to risk," Sirovich told Reuters. "Unnecessary care is potentially harmful."

Are doctors giving patients too much care? What do you think?

View CBS News In