Medical Second Opinion: Need for the day
Growing mistrust in Medical profession and the role of Second Opinion
Remember buying your last car. How many showrooms did you visit? How many test-drives did you take? So, what happens when your doctor diagnoses a condition and suggests you an expensive medical treatment / surgery, or your lab test results show a positive result. Why do you take your doctor’s or pathology lab’s word as the last word? According to a report in TOI, a Mumbai based second opinion centre found that almost 44% of surgeries suggested by first doctors, were indicated “unnecessary” by the second doctors. Though this discrepancy in the first and second doctor’s opinion varies across the different types of specialties, however, this discrepancy has been found in variety of studies done in India and abroad. This highlights the importance of second opinion, especially when some risk-prone line of treatment is suggested.
The importance of second opinion has risen like never before in today’s world of increasing commercialization of all medical institutions (both care professionals and testing facilities). Many patients have suffered in the form of incorrect recommendations and medical overdoses. In either case, you would greatly benefit from the second opinion. It is for all these misplaced beliefs and biased incentives that some insurance providers in the US have made it mandatory to ask for a second opinion before any surgery. Similarly, many Indian insurance providers have included second opinion in their coverage and some have made it necessary before serious surgeries like heart, organ transplants, kidney failure etc.
When do you need second opinion?
- When several approaches are possible, costly one and not costly one
- When treatment is not immediately required as per your doctor (not an emergency)
- When the suggested treatment / surgery is risky or will accompany other known side affects
- When you are considering participating in drug trial or in an experimental treatment
- You may also be considering second opinion on pathological lab tests, especially when you want to be doubly sure of the result. Generally, the test needs to done in a lab independent from the institution where your treatment is being carried out to doubly check the results
- You might just be unhappy about the way the communication of diagnosis and treatment by your first doctor. Some doctors withhold information about the possible treatment options making it difficult for patient to get the best form of care.
Things to keep in mind while seeking second opinion
- Even your present doctor can suggest you a doctor for a second opinion. However, ideally, the second doctor should be in a different hospital / institution, and should not be in known / professional circle of the first doctor
- Keep all your medical records & diagnosis (tests / medicines / allergies) available with you and share them with the new doc. This will update the new doctor on your medical history and save a lot of time for the both of you.
- Depending on your reason & time-criticality for seeking a second opinion, you may or may not right-away share with your second doctor that this is the second opinion, as this might color the second doctor’s opinion. However, as a rule of thumb, it is better to be clear with the second doctor that you are seeking his/her consultation on your present line of treatment with the first doctor and share your current medical history.
- Keep all your queries handy, especially those queries that were not cleared to your satisfaction when you visit the second doctor as it is very time consuming.
- It is always wise to inform your first doctor about your intentions to seek second opinion, especially if your first doctor knows about your condition and has been treating you for a while. Also, in case of discrepancy between the first and second opinion, it is easier for you to settle the dispute by openly sharing the second opinion with your first doctor.
- In case of conflicting opinions, appropriateness opinion should be preferred over a convenient opinion. That is, after all, in the best interest of patient.
We, at Curill, believe that as dignified individuals, each one of you have all the right to ask questions and be convinced about the recommendations made by your doctor. Second opinion should be openly embraced by both patients and their first doctors, as this validates / corrects the conclusions of doctors and brings more ownership in patients. Overall it brings more transparency in the patient doctor relationship. You would be surprised to know how many of doctors openly encourage their patients to seek a second opinion.