When Is It Smart to Get a Second Opinion?

August 24, 2017
A female physician sits with a male patient reviewing a document together and consulting him.
The old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” makes good sense, whether you’re talking about solving a crossword puzzle or choosing the best preschool for your child. And the same can certainly be true when you’re trying to decide on a medical issue or treatment.

To make a diagnosis, doctors rely on a complex collection of tests, scans, observations, and patient reports. Frequently the indications are very clear. But nearly as often, there can be multiple interpretations. It’s in this gray area that a second opinion can help you and your doctor find more clarity. Second opinions are commonplace in the medical community, and a good doctor will understand and work with you when you decide you need one.

Make It Worth Your While

If you’re taking the additional time and expense to get a second opinion, you’ll want to be sure it’s worth the trouble. Dr. Groopman recommends seeking a second opinion when you have “a very serious or life-threatening disease,” especially when any of the following are true:

If you’re concerned that your doctor’s initial opinion may skew the second one, you can ask for copies of any tests you’ve had, and send those directly to the consulting physician, rather than having everything forwarded. According to Dr. Leana Wen, author of When Doctor’s Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, this avoids duplicate tests, while ensuring that the second opinion comes from fresh eyes. “The doctor shouldn’t have your previous doctor’s notes,” Wen says, “which could sway his or her opinion.”

One, Two…What Next?

If the second opinion is the same as the first, both you and your doctors will have reasonable confirmation that you’re all on the right path.

If the two opinions are different, it’s trickier. Talk with all the doctors involved to see if you can find some clarity. And if you’re not convinced, you can always seek more opinions. Whether you think the diagnosis is incorrect, or you just need a little extra reassurance, it’s up to you, the patient, to decide.

Contact Lenses are like UnderwearHurricane Harvey Relief

We Make Health Possible

As East Central Indiana’s population grows, we’re putting health care where people need it most. Besides Hancock Regional Hospital, ranked as one of the nation’s safest by the Lown Hospital Index, our network includes more than 30 other locations near your home or work.

Learn More about Hancock