“You need to get a second opinion.” That phrase is tossed around a lot. But if you have a serious medical diagnosis in front of you, is it something you really need to consider? After all, you now have a lot on your plate, not just medically, but emotionally and financially as well. Below, we discuss when you really need to get a second opinion and a few ways to start that process with a minimum of pain – financial or otherwise.

Wait, What is a Second Opinion?

As noted, this is a phrase that is used often, but what does it really mean? The National Cancer Institute defines a second opinion as “[T]he opinion of a doctor other than the patient’s current doctor.” In addition, NCI goes on to say the second doctor will review the diagnosis, medical records, and notes of the first doctor. The second doctor may or may not agree with the initial diagnosis, and may recommend a different treatment plan or have a different idea all together about what is causing the symptoms that brought you, the patient, to the doctor in the first place.

When Do I Need a Second Opinion?

This is where it gets tough. Many people get a second opinion just because they don’t like the one they get from their first doctor. Nothing is harder to hear than a diagnosis for a chronic condition like diabetes, or a life threatening disease like colon cancer. But just because your doctor tells you something you don’t want to hear, is not necessarily the best reason to get a second opinion. Three questions you might want to ask yourself first are:

  1. Even if I am afraid of this diagnosis, is it one I think (based on symptoms, life choices, and family history) might be correct?

  2. Is it worth my time, energy, and possibly money to get a second opinion?

  3. Does the first doctor have expertise in the field and do they have expertise in me?

The third question is sometimes the most important. Not only do you want your doctor – whoever it may end up being – to have expertise in the disease or condition they are diagnosing, but you want to make sure they are an expert in you. That is, did they take a good history, did they do a thorough examination, did they do all the necessary tests and explain why they were necessary? You can sometimes save yourself the step of a second opinion by thoroughly reviewing, questioning, and understanding your first opinion.

You Need a Second Opinion

If you don’t have satisfactory answers to your questions, especially any of those connected with your doctor’s expertise, it is time to get a second opinion.

You should consider seeking out the most expert doctor you can find in your condition. You may be limited by geography or by cost. However, tools like Expertscape.com can help you navigate those challenges. You may be surprised to find a hospital close to home with a recognized expert in the field you need. You should also check with your insurance company first, to make sure the doctor and any recommended procedures are in network and are covered. This may help avoid billing surprises later.

What Now?

If you need to get a second opinion, don’t panic. Go about finding the doctor who best suits your needs – that is the first thing you can do to make yourself feel better. A doctor who best suits your need for a second opinion is not just the highest priced or best known doctor, they will be one…

  • Who you feel comfortable with

  • Who has treated many patients with your diagnosis, or who has done a lot of research (if you are facing a rare disease or a brand new treatment )

  • Who makes sense for you to see based on limitations such as money or geography

If you need help identifying the top experts in your filed, don’t forget to take a look at Expertscape.com. The doctors on Expertscape are the top in their fields from all over the world and may be the first step on your path back to health.

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