“I want a second opinion”… Then get one!!!
Have you ever gone to a doctors office and left thinking “I want a second opinion?” Maybe it was something you heard or felt. It could be that you didn’t feel heard. You not may have meshed well with the staff or provider. Are you looking for confirmation? Either way you want another set of eyes and ears. Guess what? I think you should get that second opinion.
My colleagues and other medical professionals may side eye me on this perspective, or maybe not. When it comes to treating patients, I am constantly asking for second opinions. I may ask for a second opinion on this weird rash. This abnormal MRI may need evaluation by a surgeon. That lab result may warrant a referral to a specialist be it rheumatology, endocrinology, cardiology, or whatever “ology’s” you can think of.
“I want a second opinion.”
When a patient asks for a second opinion, some providers may take offense. If you are a provider that find this request upsetting, I ask that you explore those feelings. What are the reasons you are oppose second opinion requests? I pose this question: isn’t the patient/provider relationship one of mutual respect and trust? Shouldn’t you strengthen the relationship by valuing your patients opinions and concerns? What if your diagnosis was wrong, but you helped your patient get that second opinion? You will have learned something from the experience. The knowledge will help you in the future. You may build a trusting relationship with your patient. They may feel more comfortable discussing their concerns because you listened the first time. What if your diagnosis is right? Well, go ahead and pat yourself on the back and nod.
“I want a second opinion.”
The past two years have been one of second opinions for me. In searching for answers for my daughter, I’ve consulted with multiple specialists. I have gotten second opinions from neurology, gastroenterology, and genetics to name a few. I have found that the medical field can be pretty difficult to navigate. Learning first hand the importance of listening and hearing your patients concerns can save them time, frustration, disappointment, confusion, and many other feelings. So as a patient and provider I recommend that you find a provider that you trust and can build a great relationship with.
Second Opinion Considerations
When you are seeking a second opinion it is best for you to identify why? What about your initial diagnosis, treatment plan, interaction that caused you to seek a second opinion. What are your expectations? What are your goals? What do you plan to do with the information? How will the information change your overall treatment plan?
Check your emotions!
When we receive information we are not fully ready or willing to accept it can trigger a wide range of emotions. Are you upset with what you were told? Are you ready to deal with the information you were presented with? Are you experiencing grief? Do you hope a second opinion will change your outcome? Seeking a second opinion can be beneficial if you feel there is something missing or you are not being heard. If seeking a second opinion will delay care or treatment of an emergent condition, its best to follow the recommendations of your treating provider.
What questions do you have that were not answered previously? Symptoms that you feel were not addressed? Medication and plan of care concerns? Make sure you write it all down. You want to leave your second opinion appointment feeling more informed and prepared to handle your conditions and/or diagnosis. You want to feel like you are able to make informed decisions regarding your health and treatment plan. You can also do your own research prior to your appointments. I do not recommend Dr. Google, but definitely fine credible information regarding your condition, disease or diagnosis.
One thing that you should always do is check with your insurance policy. Check if second opinions are covered. You also want to make sure that the provider you are going to is in the network. This will prevent you from accumulating extra charges in copays, deductibles or out of network fees. Check with your insurance policy that the test ordered by the new provider will be covered. Most medical facilities do a good job running insurances and finding out this information before your appointment, but you still want to be sure for yourself. Your policyholder is also a good frame of reference if you do not have a provider in mind. You can always contact them and ask for a list of providers in a specific specialty that is covered by your plan and in your location.
Request medical records
Most doctors’ offices will request your medical records from your previous provider. It doesn’t hurt for you to have your own records as you want to make sure you are providing a full history of your symptoms, disease or condition. You may not be aware that you can access your medical records at any time. It is important to review the notes prior to your appointment in order to understand the information initially presented to you. Studies show that patients retain approximately 20-40% of the information given to them. Reviewing your records could help you refresh your memory from your previous encounters.
Find a provider
One way to find a provider for a second opinion is through your insurance. Also word of mouth if you know someone that had a good experience. There are websites that you can research doctors and they have reviews posted from other patients. You don’t want to waste time by going to several different doctors and not getting the information you want or feeling heard. If you are looking for a specialist you can always consult with your primary care provider. They may have a list of specialist they refer patients to often.
If a second opinion is what you want, second opinion you shall get!