As a healthcare provider, you’re probably used to hearing from your patients that they want a second opinion. Patients typically seek a second opinion when they’re dissatisfied with the first or when they are receiving bad news from their doctor. Everyone has a right to a second opinion. Patients asking for a second opinion isn’t a reflection of your performance as a healthcare provider. It just means the patient wants to learn as much as they can about their condition and the options available to them.
A 2010 Gallup Poll found that 70% of Americans had faith in their physician’s diagnosis and didn’t see the need for a second opinion. However, getting a second opinion can make all the difference for some patients. Studies show that getting a second opinion resulted in changes in diagnosis in 15% of cases, changes in treatment in 37% of cases, and changes in both treatment and diagnosis in 11% of cases. The clinical impact of a second opinion was estimated as “moderate or major” in 21% of cases for diagnosis and 31% of cases for treatment.
Encouraging patients to get a second opinion can improve trust in the healthcare industry. Patients will be more likely to trust providers if they feel they have their best interest at heart, instead of limiting patients to just one diagnosis or option.
Learn how you can improve your relationship with your patients by helping them get a second opinion.
Barriers to Getting a Second Opinion
It’s important to remember that getting a second opinion isn’t always easy for some patients, including older and low-income patients. Some patients may have trouble getting to and from the doctor’s office, while others may not be able to afford a second opinion, especially if they are uninsured.
Studies have shown that some care providers make assumptions regarding their patient’s ability to seek a second opinion. Elderly and low-income patients are less likely to seek a second opinion than their younger, wealthier counterparts. Doctors are also more likely to inform younger, more educated patients about the possibility of getting a second opinion than those that are older and less educated.
Care providers should remember that elderly and low-income patients tend to be vulnerable to disease and illness. Treating symptoms in elderly or low-income patients may warrant more urgency or cause for concern than treating the same symptoms in younger patients.
Helping Patients Make Their Own Decisions
Patients often come up against a series of obstacles when seeking a second opinion. They may be short on time, in a state of shock, feeling overwhelmed, suffering from pain or other symptoms, or lack knowledge of how a second opinion could benefit their health. Helping your patients get a second opinion shows them you care about their health and their right to make their own healthcare decisions.
If one of your patients would like a second opinion, do your best to steer them in the right direction. Considering how much diagnoses and treatment methods can vary from one provider to the next, talk to your patients about the importance of getting a second opinion. If your patients are dealing with complex healthcare conditions, such as a rare or unusual disease, another provider or specialist may be able to provide more insight into their condition and how to treat it.
You can help your patients get a second opinion by referring them to other providers in the area. Some of your patients may have trouble navigating the modern healthcare system. Pointing them in the right direction can help them get in touch with the right care specialists.
If you feel the patient is dissatisfied with your opinion as a care provider, talk to them about how they feel about their disease or condition, what worries them most in terms of seeking treatment, and how they would like to go about receiving care. The more you know about your patients’ preferences, the more you can help them take control of their health.
How Second Opinions Can Reduce Costs
Getting a second opinion can also reduce the cost of care. Various conditions can easily be misdiagnosed, resulting in medically unnecessary care. To reduce the cost of care for their employees, more employers have started covering second opinion services. Studies show around two-thirds of employers now offer second opinion services as a way of preventing medically unnecessary care.
Another physician or specialist will review the patient’s medical data and come up with their own diagnosis. This improves provider accountability, while reducing the rate of medically unnecessary care.
Second opinions are an important part of the healthcare industry. Many of your patients may be content with their first diagnosis, but you can help them find another provider if they’d like more information. Help your patients make their own decisions by embracing the power of second opinions.