Just over a third of overall healthcare costs in Florida can be attributed to the practice of defensive medicine – ordering unnecessary tests and treatments to prevent lawsuits, according to a new poll.

The spending equates to more than $40 billion per year, according to the poll conducted by Oppenheim Research under the direction of Jay Rayburn, Ph.D., Florida State University School of Communications. The poll was released by the organization Patients for Fair Compensation.

"Doctors order unnecessary medical care because they are in fear that one mistake could wipe out everything they've ever worked for," said Richard L. Jackson, chairman of Patients for Fair Compensation.

The poll was conducted over the phone with 321 physicians statewide, and 88 percent of responders said they practiced some form of defensive medicine in the past 12 months.

According to 2009 data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare in Florida costs up to $132 billion annually.

Earlier this month, the ABIM Foundation partnered with nine leading medical specialty societies to launch Choosing Wisely, a campaign aimed at helping physicians, patients and other health care stakeholders think and talk about overuse or misuse of health care resources in the United States.

"By identifying specific procedures or tests that may commonly be ordered, but not always necessary to improving patient care, we're kicking off an important and overdue conversation about making wise choices in health care,” said said Christine K. Cassel, M.D., president and CEO of the ABIM Foundation. “Everyone – providers, patients and others – plays a part in being better stewards of the system's finite resources."