When you’re facing a new medical diagnosis, it’s common to feel confused. Making decisions can be very difficult as you navigate the healthcare system, especially when you need to choose between several treatment options. How do you know you have been diagnosed correctly or are making the right treatment choices?
It makes sense to get a second opinion when you face a medical condition that is life-changing or even life-threatening, says Jonathan Schaffer, MD MBA, an orthopaedic surgeon and Managing Director of the MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program.
According to Dr Schaffer, a second opinion can help you:
- Become a more educated healthcare consumer – By seeking a second opinion, you gain more knowledge of your condition and your options. You are more equipped to make informed decisions that can have long-term consequences.
- Confirm that your diagnosis is appropriate – Have all of the appropriate studies and test been completed and interpreted properly? Are there other diagnoses that should be considered?
- Confirm that the recommended treatment is appropriate – Is the treatment plan correct? Is it providing the desired results? Is the treatment plan complete? Have all of the treatment alternatives been discussed?
- Compare outcomes of the treatments you are offered – By obtaining a second opinion, you help ensure that you have been diagnosed appropriately and that you will receive the most appropriate and optimal treatment plan. A second opinion may recommend treatments that may eliminate the need for unnecessary invasive procedures or surgery.
Ultimately, a second opinion can help you make the best decisions for your health, Dr Schaffer says.
Why may some people hesitate?
Patients are often concerned that obtaining a second opinion may offend their current physician.
They should not be offended because they know that diagnoses can affect patients in so many different ways that it is challenging for any one physician to know about every available option.
Some doctors, as a practice, will reach out to colleagues for opinions on their cases, especially when a colleague has experience particular to a patient’s case.
New treatments are appearing very rapidly, and a doctor’s experience in complex cases matters; not all doctors have such experience.
“Having additional information about your diagnosis and treatment can only be helpful. Most importantly, as a patient, it is your right to seek a medical second opinion. You are your own best advocate,” Dr Schaffer says.
Not just for life-threatening diagnoses
A second opinion has the potential to provide your treatment team with the opportunity to consult with a leading specialist in their field.
They are not just for life-threatening diagnoses, such as cancer, Dr Schaffer says.
“Getting a second opinion for conditions that significantly affect your quality of life, such as asthma or a knee injury, can ensure you have been diagnosed appropriately, are getting the optimal treatment, and it could you save you time and money.”
By removing the geographic barriers to care and using an online second medical opinion program, patients can benefit from the recommendations and advice provided to improve their health and their health care.
In some cases, the opinion provided by a second physician may agree on the diagnosis and treatment identified by your physician. This can provide you with significant reassurance, peace of mind and confidence that you are making the best choice for your health.
This article was originally published on Cleveland Clinic on 18th November 2014.