How To Approach Second Opinions

When making a major medical decision, it’s natural to be curious about what different medical teams would recommend. Getting a second opinion is an effective way to make a fully informed decision. Some insurance companies may even require that you receive a second opinion before you begin treatment.

Here’s why you may want to find a second opinion:

  • Your doctor is not a specialist in your condition

  • Your doctor is only willing to discuss options from their hospital

  • You’re having trouble communicating with your doctor

  • You want peace of mind that you are making the right choice

When looking for a second opinion, you should contact your insurance company to confirm what your policy covers. They may also be able to help guide you to other specialists in your network.

And keep in mind as you are looking for a second opinion that it is essential to find someone with experience treating your condition. Patient advocacy groups and specialty medical associations can be great resources to help you find experts in specialized areas of medicine. For example, autoimmune patients can approach an organization such as the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association to get guidance.

It can also be nerve wracking to ask for a second opinion. Patients and caregivers sometimes harbor feelings of guilt asking about a second opinion. But it is absolutely reasonable and within your right to ask a second opinion, or even a third or fourth or fifth opinion. It is you or your child’s health, after all!

Here are a couple of ways to open that conversation:

  • "Before I choose a treatment option, I’d like to receive a second opinion. Could you help me with that?”

  • “If you/your child had this diagnosis, who would you want to see for a second opinion?”

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Here is a list of items to have ready for a second opinion visit:

  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report

  • If you were in the hospital, a copy of your discharge summary

  • A summary of your doctor’s current treatment plan

  • A list of all medications, including the doses, and dates last taken

If you do not already have these items on hand, it is within your right to ask your hospital’s medical records departments for copies. There is often an option to have records send directly to the referred physician but it is always helpful to have a hard copy in hand in case the records get lost in the shuffle!

Attending your second opinion appointment:

  • Bring all of those medical records you collected!

  • Come prepared with exact details about your condition and treatment to get the most of your second opinion.

  • If you can and feel comfortable enough, you can also bring someone with you to the visit who can take notes and remind you of any questions or symptoms that you may forget to mention.

Seeking the advice of more than one specialist can provide an additional evaluation of your treatment options, as well as help you gain confidence in your healthcare decisions. Patients and families seek second opinions regularly, so you never have to feel alone in your search for the right diagnosis or treatment.

If you'd like more information or just have a question, please feel free to email our team at hello@clarahealth.com!

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