Seeking a Second Medical Opinion

Reviewed May 30, 2017

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Summary

A visit with a specialist may be necessary for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor.

Often, a visit with a specialist is needed for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor. 

When to get a second opinion

Consider getting a second opinion when or if:

  • Your primary care doctor suggests a second opinion. Your doctor may feel that meeting with a specialist is needed to help diagnose or craft a care plan.
  • Your insurance company calls for one. Many insurance companies require a second opinion before nonemergency surgery is performed.
  • Diagnosis from your regular doctor is uncertain
  • Major surgery is recommended by your doctor
  • A costly, complex, risky, or experimental procedure is recommended by your doctor
  • A rare, fatal, or disabling condition is diagnosed
  • The diagnosis and care plan mapped out by your doctor seems unclear
  • Your current treatment is not working
  • You are unhappy with the management of your current care

Where to get another opinion

Many people are afraid of offending their doctor by telling him they want a second opinion, or think the doctor will not want to keep treating them if they seek a second opinion. Remember that a second opinion is every person’s right. According to the American Medical Association’s physicians’ code of ethics, “When a patient initiates a second opinion, it is inappropriate for the primary physician to terminate the patient-physician relationship solely because of the patient’s decision to obtain a second opinion.”

Resources for getting a second opinion include:

  • Your insurance provider has a list of specialists you can contact.
  • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
  • Contact a national group linked to your illness or condition, if one exists (for example, American Lung Association or American Heart Association). These groups can give you a list of doctors in your area who specialize in the condition you are inquiring about.
  • If you know any doctors or nurses personally, ask them for recommendations.

After making an appointment, arrange to have your medical records sent to the new doctor, or pick them up and take them to the appointment yourself. Bring to your appointment a written list of questions that you want to ask the doctor.

Comparing the information

If the second opinion differs from the first, ask the doctors to tell how they arrived at their diagnoses. Ask about the scientific studies on which the recommendations are based, the test results they looked at, and their reasoning. One doctor may be more current than the other. It is also likely that there is no one best treatment, and different but equally effective treatments might be suggested by each doctor.

Once you have gathered all the information, go back to your primary care doctor and talk about the views. If each doctor gives a different opinion, a third opinion may be needed.

Resources

American Medical Association
(800) 621-8335
www.ama-assn.org

National Institute on Aging
(800) 222-2225 or (800) 222-4225 (TTY)
www.nia.nih.gov

The Empowered Patient: Hundreds of Life-Saving Facts, Action Steps and Strategies You Need to Know by Julia A. Hallisy. Bold Spirit Press, 2008.

By Amy Daugherty

Summary

A visit with a specialist may be necessary for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor.

Often, a visit with a specialist is needed for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor. 

When to get a second opinion

Consider getting a second opinion when or if:

  • Your primary care doctor suggests a second opinion. Your doctor may feel that meeting with a specialist is needed to help diagnose or craft a care plan.
  • Your insurance company calls for one. Many insurance companies require a second opinion before nonemergency surgery is performed.
  • Diagnosis from your regular doctor is uncertain
  • Major surgery is recommended by your doctor
  • A costly, complex, risky, or experimental procedure is recommended by your doctor
  • A rare, fatal, or disabling condition is diagnosed
  • The diagnosis and care plan mapped out by your doctor seems unclear
  • Your current treatment is not working
  • You are unhappy with the management of your current care

Where to get another opinion

Many people are afraid of offending their doctor by telling him they want a second opinion, or think the doctor will not want to keep treating them if they seek a second opinion. Remember that a second opinion is every person’s right. According to the American Medical Association’s physicians’ code of ethics, “When a patient initiates a second opinion, it is inappropriate for the primary physician to terminate the patient-physician relationship solely because of the patient’s decision to obtain a second opinion.”

Resources for getting a second opinion include:

  • Your insurance provider has a list of specialists you can contact.
  • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
  • Contact a national group linked to your illness or condition, if one exists (for example, American Lung Association or American Heart Association). These groups can give you a list of doctors in your area who specialize in the condition you are inquiring about.
  • If you know any doctors or nurses personally, ask them for recommendations.

After making an appointment, arrange to have your medical records sent to the new doctor, or pick them up and take them to the appointment yourself. Bring to your appointment a written list of questions that you want to ask the doctor.

Comparing the information

If the second opinion differs from the first, ask the doctors to tell how they arrived at their diagnoses. Ask about the scientific studies on which the recommendations are based, the test results they looked at, and their reasoning. One doctor may be more current than the other. It is also likely that there is no one best treatment, and different but equally effective treatments might be suggested by each doctor.

Once you have gathered all the information, go back to your primary care doctor and talk about the views. If each doctor gives a different opinion, a third opinion may be needed.

Resources

American Medical Association
(800) 621-8335
www.ama-assn.org

National Institute on Aging
(800) 222-2225 or (800) 222-4225 (TTY)
www.nia.nih.gov

The Empowered Patient: Hundreds of Life-Saving Facts, Action Steps and Strategies You Need to Know by Julia A. Hallisy. Bold Spirit Press, 2008.

By Amy Daugherty

Summary

A visit with a specialist may be necessary for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor.

Often, a visit with a specialist is needed for a diagnosis, or to increase a person’s comfort level with an existing diagnosis and treatment plan prescribed by another doctor. 

When to get a second opinion

Consider getting a second opinion when or if:

  • Your primary care doctor suggests a second opinion. Your doctor may feel that meeting with a specialist is needed to help diagnose or craft a care plan.
  • Your insurance company calls for one. Many insurance companies require a second opinion before nonemergency surgery is performed.
  • Diagnosis from your regular doctor is uncertain
  • Major surgery is recommended by your doctor
  • A costly, complex, risky, or experimental procedure is recommended by your doctor
  • A rare, fatal, or disabling condition is diagnosed
  • The diagnosis and care plan mapped out by your doctor seems unclear
  • Your current treatment is not working
  • You are unhappy with the management of your current care

Where to get another opinion

Many people are afraid of offending their doctor by telling him they want a second opinion, or think the doctor will not want to keep treating them if they seek a second opinion. Remember that a second opinion is every person’s right. According to the American Medical Association’s physicians’ code of ethics, “When a patient initiates a second opinion, it is inappropriate for the primary physician to terminate the patient-physician relationship solely because of the patient’s decision to obtain a second opinion.”

Resources for getting a second opinion include:

  • Your insurance provider has a list of specialists you can contact.
  • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
  • Contact a national group linked to your illness or condition, if one exists (for example, American Lung Association or American Heart Association). These groups can give you a list of doctors in your area who specialize in the condition you are inquiring about.
  • If you know any doctors or nurses personally, ask them for recommendations.

After making an appointment, arrange to have your medical records sent to the new doctor, or pick them up and take them to the appointment yourself. Bring to your appointment a written list of questions that you want to ask the doctor.

Comparing the information

If the second opinion differs from the first, ask the doctors to tell how they arrived at their diagnoses. Ask about the scientific studies on which the recommendations are based, the test results they looked at, and their reasoning. One doctor may be more current than the other. It is also likely that there is no one best treatment, and different but equally effective treatments might be suggested by each doctor.

Once you have gathered all the information, go back to your primary care doctor and talk about the views. If each doctor gives a different opinion, a third opinion may be needed.

Resources

American Medical Association
(800) 621-8335
www.ama-assn.org

National Institute on Aging
(800) 222-2225 or (800) 222-4225 (TTY)
www.nia.nih.gov

The Empowered Patient: Hundreds of Life-Saving Facts, Action Steps and Strategies You Need to Know by Julia A. Hallisy. Bold Spirit Press, 2008.

By Amy Daugherty

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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