Friday, July 30, 2010

The Best Way to Get a Second Opinion

Trust, but verify – This was undoubtedly one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received; and when it comes to your health, it’s absolutely imperative that you follow it. I don’t mean to imply that your doctor is incapable or inefficient, but when it comes to major medical issues, it’s always advisable to get a second opinion. This way, you not only prevent irreparable medical errors, you also gain peace of mind in knowing you made the right choice after taking into consideration all the factors at hand.

While most people know that a second opinion is important, they don’t know how to go about getting one. The most difficult part of this decision is finding a doctor or healthcare professional they can trust. Also, if both doctors provide contrasting opinions, how do they know whom to believe without going in for a third opinion? The answer to this differs from patient to patient – it varies according to various factors like cost, time, urgency, effort, opinions of friends and family, and others.

In general, a second opinion is desirable and even necessary when the diagnosis is complicated and not easy, when the surgical or medical procedure recommended by your doctor is risky and could have permanent or devastating consequences, when you don’t believe your primary doctor’s opinion or when you think you may have a condition that they have not diagnosed, when you believe that there are alternatives to your doctor’s suggested course of treatment that are less invasive, less painful, and equally effective, when your primary doctor is not a specialist in the disease you suffer from and other physicians are more qualified to offer opinions, or when you’re just confused and don’t know what to do.

Diagnoses of cancer, heart disease and the recommendation of a bypass or other kind of surgery, amputation of a limb, hysterectomy, termination of pregnancy for a fetal anomaly or danger to the mother’s health, removal of brain and other malignant tumors, and other such major life-affecting decisions are better taken with a second and even third opinion.
If you’re ready for a second opinion and want to get one, ask your doctor (if he or she is not going to be offended) or someone you trust to recommend a suitable specialist or healthcare facility.

Check with your insurance provider if your second opinion is covered in your policy or if you will incur an additional cost. If the second opinion varies significantly from the first, get a third and even fourth opinion to be sure, especially in the case of life-threatening or life-changing diseases and conditions. When you’ve decided on the course of treatment that you think is right for you, get your primary doctor to transfer your medical history and records to your new healthcare provider.

And finally, a word of advice; before you seek a second opinion, read up about your condition or disease through books and other sources that are validated and reputable. Don’t believe random Internet sites that are not authenticated or written by a specialist. This knowledge is just for information purposes alone, not something that you base your final decision on. Leave that to your doctor as he or she knows best when it comes to treatment and management of disease.

This article is contributed by Susan White, who regularly writes on the subject of surgical technician schools. She invites your questions, comments at her email address: [email protected].


  1. Hello Dr. Malpani,

    TPAs as medical administrators can also play an important role here in some ways.

    TPAs can appoint/engage specialists for second opinions and save avoidable treatment/costs which the patient may have to bear.

    Ofcourse their first goal would be to save cost and hence could be biased, but if they are professional and can build trust over time, it could really do this for innocent/ignorant customers.

  2. I agree completely.

    This was one of the original goals of "managed care". Unfortunately, it has become corrupted over time.

    I agree an independent panel of retired expert doctors to provide an unbaised second opinion would be very helpful. Maybe a smart entrepreneur could set up this service ? This would help everyone !

    Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD
    Medical Director
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    Helping patients to talk to doctors !

    Information Therapy is the Best Prescription !

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