Do You Need A Second Opinion?

A Second Opinion Can Help You Take Charge of Your Health Care

When you have a chronic illness such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), maintaining a good relationship with your physician is extremely important. However, even if you have trust in your health care providers, there are times when you might need a second opinion, such as if you think you have been misdiagnosed or you have gone undiagnosed. With IBD, you might also consider getting a second opinion before having any type of surgery.

Patients may worry that a physician will get upset over a second opinion. Physicians who care about their patients will welcome a second opinion and won't take it as a personal affront. After all, what could be better than a second set of eyes, especially in the case of a difficult complication? Second opinions could be expensive, which is another reason some patients don't seek them out. However, in the long run, getting a second opinion, or even a third, could save time and money as well as preserve quality of life. Patients should always feel that they have the choice to seek another opinion or to make a change in their healthcare team. This article can help you determine if you really do want to seek a second opinion.

When Do You Need a Second Opinion?

Question Mark
Question. Photo © Svilen Milev

A second opinion isn't always necessary—at times it's clear what the diagnosis is and what the treatment should be. There are cases, however, where diagnosis and treatment are not clear-cut. Differentiating between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can be difficult. It's not unheard of to be diagnosed with one form of IBD, only to later find out it was the wrong one (although this is not common). IBD is a complicated disease and your treatment plan should take into account your lifestyle, the severity of your disease, your ability to afford the treatment, and any risk of possible adverse effects. If you are ever concerned that your diagnosis is incorrect or that your need for treatment is not being met, a second opinion could either verify your suspicions or finally put them to rest. 

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Finding a Second Opinion Doctor

Doctor Talking On The Phone
Should you interview second opinion doctors? Sure!. Photo © photostock

Once you have decided to seek a second opinion, the next step would be to find a physician who can take an unbiased look at your case. Of course you will want a board-certified physician, but you'll also want to see someone that is not affiliated (such as a partner in the same practice) with the doctor who gave you a first opinion. You'll need to do some of your own legwork to find your second opinion doctor, but you can start by checking with your insurance to find doctors on your plan, or your local hospital to get a list of specialists. 

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How to Work With a Second Opinion Doctor

Homework
Your child may have a significant amount of homework while recuperating from a flare-up. Photo © shho

When you do decide to get a second opinion, you'll want to be sure that the new physician has everything she needs to get started on your case. You'll need to discuss your need for a second opinion and forward your records from your current physician. Patients have the right to ask for their medical records and to take them to another practice. After your second opinion has weighed in on your case you will have some decisions to make in order to determine your next steps.

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Is It Time to Change Doctors?

Take Action
When it's time to change doctors, it's time to take action. Image © Stuart Miles

What happens if you decide that your second opinion doctor is going to work out better than your first opinion doctor? There could be a variety of reasons why this could be the case, some of which may be related to your diagnosis and treatment and others which may be related to communication and bedside manner. No matter the ultimate reason, patients have the right to change healthcare providers at any time.

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Changing Providers Is Tough

Getting a second opinion or changing up a healthcare team is always a stressful time. However, patients have the right to seek the best care for them. A physician who is threatened by a second opinion or who becomes difficult to work with validates the need for a change in the healthcare team. Being chronically ill is often challenging, which is why it's important to have all the members of the team, which includes the patient, on the same page.

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