If you are like most people, you devote a lot of time and energy to exploring all the options before making a major decision. Research indicates that people spend more time choosing an appliance or a car than choosing a course of medical treatment.
Yet, nothing is more important than your health.
Today, patients are becoming more informed medical consumers. They want to have more of a say in decisions about their health and their medical treatment. Seeking a second opinion is a major part of that decision-making process, allowing you to take more responsibility for your health care.
We have found, for example, that nearly one-half of the new patients who come to the Cleveland Clinic come here for a second opinion.
Why should you get a second opinion?
Second opinions are commonly sought to confirm a diagnosis. According to the book Good Operations – Bad Operations by Charles B. Inlander, “At least 25 percent of all second opinions do not agree with the first opinion diagnostically.” As medical treatments have become more sophisticated and as techniques and procedures change, it becomes difficult for any one physician to be aware of all the latest information. People are, therefore, getting second opinions to seek additional information, investigate newer treatments and compare treatment results.
Second opinions can offer you reassurance and peace of mind that the course of treatment prescribed by your physician is the best available. Second opinions may enlighten you and your physician to new approaches or treatments, thereby empowering you to explore all options before coming to a decision. And second opinions may provide a safeguard against unnecessary procedures.
By getting more information and asking the right questions, you will improve your chances of making informed decisions about your treatments.
When should you seek a second opinion?
- If you are faced with a serious illness that does not require emergency surgery.
- If you are uncertain about the diagnosis or course of treatment suggested to you.
- If the treatment recommended is invasive.
- If you have already been undergoing treatment, and it is not producing the results your physician had expected.
Some insurance companies require a second opinion before certain surgeries. Check your payor’s policy regarding second opinions.
Who do you see for a second opinion?
You can ask your doctor to give you the name of another specialist who has a great deal of experience in treating your illness. Most physicians will not discourage you from obtaining a second opinion, so do not hesitate to ask them to refer you to another physician. Consultation has always been a part of general medical practice. Local medical societies or medical schools will have the names of physicians who specialize in your illness.
What questions should you ask?
- Is the diagnosis correct?
- Are there any other forms of treatment available?
- Is this the newest treatment available?
- What are the pros and cons associated with this treatment?
- What will happen if I choose to wait or not receive any treatment?
- What are the risks associated with treatment? (Complications, quality of life, mortality)
- Are there any side effects?
- If surgery is recommended, do I really need surgery?
- How long is the recovery period?
- What are the costs associated with treatment?
- Is a hospital stay required?
- What to do once I have a second opinion?
After receiving your second opinion, examine the information received from both physicians. Make comparisons. Does the diagnosis of the second physician agree with that of the first physician?
If there are significant differences between the opinions, seek another physician’s opinion or discuss the information with your family physician. You need to decide on the course of treatment and the physician with whom you and your family feel most comfortable.
To receive a second opinion at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, ask your doctor to refer you or call 216.444.CARE or 800.CCF.CARE.