You just received a medical diagnosis. You might be confused, even fearful. And you want to make sure the diagnosis is right and your treatment plan is the best one for you.
Getting a second opinion from another heath care provider can help you make informed decisions, put you at ease – and in some cases, save your life.
Medical science is fast moving, and newer approaches may offer fewer side effects and shorter recovery time. Physicians’ training and experience with conditions and treatments vary.
At the same time, medicine is not an exact science. Tests can be inconclusive and there can be different approaches that are both effective. A physician combines knowledge about medicine and about you, the individual, to guide treatment decisions.
Second opinions can answer questions like:
Some people hesitate to get second opinions even when they are encouraged to. Usually, the hesitation comes from one of the common myths about second opinions highlighted below:
Myth #1: My doctor will be upset
Most doctors welcome other doctors’ opinions. The American College of Surgeons says that getting a second opinion before surgery is good medical practice, and doctors shouldn't be offended when a patient asks for one.
If it still feels awkward to ask, the Center for Advancing Health suggests saying something like this:
“You know, this is a big decision for me, and I would like to talk with another expert or two so that I feel completely confident in our treatment plan”
Myth #2: It will be expensive
Most health insurers cover second opinions for medically necessary procedures. Some even require you to get a second opinion. In complicated cases they will pay for a third opinion. It’s important to check with your insurer to make sure.
When second opinions find a less invasive approach (like using a tiny incision and a scope instead of making a large opening) or one that can be done as an outpatient, they can save you pain and recovery time. And they may cut out the cost of overnight hospital stays.
Myth #3: It’s too difficult. It takes so long to get an appointment—and there’s so much running around and paperwork involved
If you get a second opinion within the same healthcare system, it may streamline the process. Second opinion program staff can help identify a doctor or doctors; collect medical records and other test results, images, and pathology slides for you; and send them to the second provider. With a coordinated team approach, the process can be very efficient.
If you prefer a second opinion from a provider in a different health care system it may take a little longer. So, do your homework on their program to make sure the process will be as quick and easy on you as possible.
Myth #4: My health condition isn’t life threatening, so I shouldn’t bother
No matter your condition – life-threatening or not – you should feel comfortable and confident with your diagnosis and treatment.