Second Opinions

February 4, 2011

Second Opinions

When you go to a clinic and have an appointment to see a physician what you are really paying for is their medical opinion.  That opinion may include a medication, diagnostic testing, or even a referral to a specialist.   Or is may entail none of these.  That is what the practice of medicine entails, doctors interviewing, examining and formulating their best medical assessment, their opinion.  Physicians in related specialties generally have the same training and education.  Those of us that are Board Certified in our respective fields have passed the same examination.  But we may have differing opinions about the best course of treatment for a certain medical issue.

My father was having some issues and he wasn’t comfortable with the course of treatment that his physician specialist had decided what he believed was best.  He called me to discuss this and get my thoughts.  I recommended that he seek a second opinion.  He was somewhat shocked that I would recommend such action because in his mind that was being disrespectful to his doctor who he genuinely liked and trusted.  I reassured him that this was not a matter of disrespect to his doctor.  The most important factor in treating a patient is making sure that they are comfortable with the decided course of action.

Second opinions are not a bad thing to seek out if you have doubts or concerns about a treatment course.  If it is a matter of confusion or misunderstanding then do not hesitate to contact your health care provider to seek the answers you need.  In my opinion, a physician should not feel threatened or angry when a patient seeks a second opinion.  The other provider may either agree with the first prescribed course or action or may have a differing opinion.  And that is fine, often there is more than one effective course of action.  As I stated before the most important thing if for a patient is to feel comfortable and confident about a particular course of treatment.

When you seek a second opinion try to bring any copies of prior testing.  That way I find out what the other physician has done so far in the course of treatment and their diagnosis.  After all, I don’t want to try and re-invent the wheel. Specifically I don’t want to repeat any testing unnecessarily.  Thus if you have already had some testing done, bring it to the visitfor the second opinion.  It will save you time and money.

Now that being said I had a patient come to see me a few weeks ago.  I was her 5th opinion.  Her concern was that the other 4 physicians weren’t meeting her concerns.  She did bring me a lot of paperwork and lab results, all of which formed the same opinion.  Yes, all of the 4 prior physicians came to the same conclusion and diagnosis.  Unfortunately for her, after reviewing all of the information and doing my own examination and I had to agree with them, there was nothing physically wrong with the patient.

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