Even those who enjoy a productive and comfortable relationship with their doctor might occasionally feel motivated to seek a second opinion regarding a diagnosis.
Most commonly, this happens after a serious diagnosis that includes a threat to life, but this situation can also arise after diagnosis of a minor condition. Maybe you feel that something isn’t quite right, and you’re still concerned that you haven’t received a complete assessment of your condition.
Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to seek a second opinion you might feel unsure of how to proceed. This brief primer can help.
Yes, second opinions are important. A 2015 study showed that a second opinion uncovered a differentiating diagnosis in 15 percent of cases. In the event that the original diagnosis was upheld, the second opinion led to alternate advice on treatment in 37 percent of cases.
Access all available options. With regard to treatments, clinical trials or alternative treatments are not always widely known by every practitioner. Seeking a second opinion helps you identify all possible courses of action, so that you can choose treatment that feels best for your situation.
Your doctor won’t be offended. Seeking a second opinion won’t undermine your relationship with your primary physician. In fact, your doctor might even ask a colleague to consult on your case. He or she also wants to explore all available options.
Insurance shouldn’t be a problem. Most insurance plans, including Medicare, will usually cover second opinions. But you should call your provider to learn more details before scheduling an appointment with anyone.
Medical records can be shared. Ask your first doctor to share your records with the second physician. Some tests might have to be repeated.
If you receive two very different diagnoses, don’t panic. This can feel like an overwhelming situation. But you can seek a third or even fourth opinion in this case. The more professionals you have in your corner, the better.