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Medical Care

Second Opinions: Necessary or Not?

How important is that second opinion? For some medical insurance companies, second opinions are so important they are required before treatment.

Are second opinions as valuable as our insurance companies make them seem? Neurosurgeon Jack Maniscalco M.D. clears up the inconsistency. “Second opinions are important for a number of reasons. If you, as a patient, do not feel as though your doctor is comprehensively addressing your questions or concerns, seek out another physician. If you feel uncomfortable with your diagnosis or suggested treatment, find a doctor who will listen and understand your apprehension with the previous recommendation.”
If you are spending more time with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant rather than with your doctor, Maniscalco recommends considering a second opinion.

How Can You Obtain a Second Opinion?

“Treatment shouldn’t be delayed under any circumstances if the patient’s condition is life-threatening. If immediate action is not necessary, then start looking into other options,” says Maniscalco. Here are a few points to keep in mind if you decide to pursue a second diagnosis:

• Ask questions! Remember – you’re trying to understand what’s going on and what your options are.

• Most physicians/hospitals have referral services. Take advantage of these!

• Ask family and friends for a physician they would recommend.

• Check with your insurance company, as they might have a network of preferred physicians.

• Call your second-opinion doctor before your appointment to submit any medical records that he or she may require.

• Make sure your doctor discusses his or her personal complications and success rate.

What Should You Look For in a Surgeon?

“It all comes down to comfort,” says Maniscalco. “If the treatment for your condition involves surgery, you’re trusting this person with your life. Make sure you have the right doctor for you! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about your diagnosis or the surgeon’s qualifications.” The American College of Surgeons agrees with inquiring about any medical professional’s accreditation. Maniscalco also advises asking your physician some additional key questions before any operation:

• Why do I need this procedure?

• What are the risks and benefits?

• How have your previous patients responded to this procedure?

• Are there any alternatives?

• How soon do we need to take action?

With any medical decision-making, knowledge is indispensable. Your questions should reflect your understanding of what’s going on in your body. “You want a physician who is professional, but sees each patient as a person, not just a medical case. That personal trust is very important. If, for whatever reason, you don’t trust your surgeon, then it’s time to move on to a second opinion,” says Maniscalco.

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