We sat down with our President of Medical Programs, Dr. Marc Shuman, to ask him some questions about second medical opinions and hear his professional thoughts. Find out what he had to say below.
Q: Dr. Shuman, when should a patient seek a second medical opinion?
A: If you're concerned that your physician may not have made the correct diagnosis or made the appropriate recommendations for treatment of a serious illness (Rx or not Rx; surgery, medication), don't hesitate to get a second opinion because you're afraid to offend them! Good physicians are confident of their skills and are not threatened by a patient's request.
Also, it is critical to factor in how much experience they have had in managing this disease: How many patients have they treated with this disorder? What is their track record, i.e., outcomes of treatment? Does the clinic or hospital maintain records of patient data, diagnosis, and treatment, and will they provide you with the results? Also, important to consider is how many years have you been under the care of your doctor, and how satisfied have you been?
Q: How should a patient choose which doctor to see for a second opinion?
A: Generally, it is preferable to choose a physician at another practice or medical center. You'll have to consider whether your medical insurance covers the cost. Experience counts! You want an opinion from an M.D. who has seen many patients with your presumed disease, ideally, at a hospital or clinic that has other physicians and services related to your illness.
For example, for a woman with breast cancer, it's important to find a Center with Medical and Surgical Oncologists, Radiation Therapists, and Pathologists whose major (if not exclusive) job is to manage breast cancer. For some diseases, especially cancer, patient advocacy groups can help steer you in the right direction.
Q: Is there anything a patient needs to do before their appointment for a second opinion?
A: It is very important to give permission for the Consultant to have access to your relevant medical records, including X-rays, CTs, MRIs, and pathology results and lab results—before your appointment. You needn't waste a lot of time giving this information to the M.D. at your appointment.
Q: Is there anything, in particular, a patient should do or keep in mind during their appointment with the second opinion physician?
A: Yes. Arrive with a list of specific questions and concerns, hopefully, after you have done some reading about the disease. Some M.D.s will allow you to record your visit, which is very helpful when you try to recall what the doctor told you. Ideally, you will be accompanied by a close friend or relative so that there are two sets of ears hearing the M.D.'s advice. A Consultant should spend about one hour with you, including a physical examination.
Q: What happens after a patient gets a second opinion? What should a patient do if the second opinion physician disagrees with the original diagnosis or treatment plan?
A: This may be the most difficult part of the process. Best outcomes include 1. The Consultant and your physician's opinions are in agreement. 2. The Consultant and your M.D. work together if they both agree. The Consultant may advise your M.D. on other tests that should be done, treatments that haven't been considered, or a completely different diagnosis and/or treatment.
Another outcome may be that you are so impressed by the Consultant's experience and reasoning for their decision and the superiority of their results with their recommended treatment that you decide to transfer your care. Generally, it is best to return to your physician and discuss the Consultant's recommendations.
About Dr. Marc Shuman
Dr. Shuman is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at UCSF and has been listed among Top Doctors in America for three decades. Previously, Dr. Shuman was funded by the NIH and the NCI as a Principal Investigator for 30 years.
About MORE Health
MORE Health, a global digital health company, provides peace of mind and confidence when you need it most—when facing a serious life-changing illness. MORE Health delivers a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan from the world's best medical minds through a virtual second opinion. This collaborative approach to diagnosis puts the patient at the center of the process—empowering them to make informed decisions regarding their healthcare. The service ensures that the attending doctor and the expert physician specialist are aligned through their proprietary, GDPR- and HIPAA-compliant Physician Collaboration Platform™; this minimizes errors while also resolving potential conflicts regarding the diagnosis and treatment plan developed. Since 2013, MORE Health has helped patients on six continents and continues its mission to provide clients and their members access to the best medical minds in the world—when they need it most. For more information, please Contact Us.