Whenever you are faced with a big life decision; who to marry, what car to purchase, what you want to major in college we often ask friends and relatives for their opinions. Getting opinions is critical to helping us make the best decision possible. We all usually talk over big decisions with those closest to us. And lots of advice can help us arrive at the best solution to any major decision. This same plan should carry over to making decisions about our health.
A 2017 study makes a good case for getting a second medical opinion. 21 % of patients who went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion left with a completely new diagnosis. And 66 % of patients got a more refined diagnosis.
Let’s keep in mind that doctors and health care professionals are “practicing medicine”. There is still so much to learn about our very complicated bodies. Diagnosing conditions is complicated and treatment options are changing all the time. So if you are facing a complex medical condition seeking out other opinions and options is not a bad idea, in fact it is a good idea.
A second opinion means that you choose to see another doctor or specialist after you’ve received an initial diagnosis or treatment plan for a medical condition.
Reasons For Getting A Second Opinion
- Your health insurance requires it.
- You have a cancer diagnosis.
- A surgery has been recommended.
- Your doctor isn’t specialized in your condition.
- Anytime diagnosis or treatment is unclear.
- You are fighting a lot of medical conditions.
- You have a rare condition.
- You have a wide variety of treatment options.
- You have lost confidence in your current physician.
- You are lacking peace of mind.
How To Let Your Doctor Know You Want A Second Opinion
It is important to first get as complete an understanding from this first doctor on what his diagnosis is and how he would treat it. Your doctor should not be offended when you let him know that you desire a 2nd opinion. Your current doctor is providing 2nd opinions for other patients too.
I’d would like to get a 2nd opinion:
- Would you refer me to a specialist?
- If you were me and had this condition, what doctor would you go to? Can you refer me?
- Before starting treatment, can you help me get another opinion?
Get copies of all of your medical records including x-rays or labs and diagnosis and treatment recommendations to take with you to your 2nd opinion doctor. By law these records are yours. The doctor’s office may charge you a fee to copy this information. You will also want a comprehensive list of all current medications.
How To Find A Second Opinion
Often times your current doctor will send you on to a specialist to verify their diagnosis and to collaborate on the best treatment option.
Your health insurance provider may require you to get a second opinion before they sign off on a surgery or course of treatment.
You can do online searches for top-rated medical centers and experts in specialty areas.
Outcomes For 2nd Opinions
- Agrees with the original diagnosis and treatment.
- Agrees with original diagnosis but offers a different treatment plan.
- Disagrees with original diagnosis and offers a new one with a different treatment plan.
If your two opinions do not agree on diagnosis or treatment you may want a 3rd opinion to clarify your options.
Doctors are not offended when you want to verify a diagnosis or treatment protocol. If your doctor is offended you need to find a new health care professional. If you are facing a complex medical problem or are contemplating a major surgery it is wise to seek a second opinion.
Having peace about treatment options and feeling like you have some control over what is happening can boost your will to fight whatever you are facing. Second opinions can confirm and bring peace that you are following the best course of care for your particular situation.
READ MORE: Doctors Urge More “Lifestyle Medicine” Fewer Pharmaceuticals