If you have been diagnosed with a serious or chronic health condition, or have been told you need a procedure or medical therapy, you may want to get a second opinion from another doctor before you begin treatment. You may also want to seek another opinion if the doctor you see initially cannot provide a definite diagnosis.
A second opinion can help you confirm your diagnosis and fully explore potential treatment options. Your doctor can tell you how quickly your condition needs to be addressed and how much time you have to look into your options.
Patients commonly seek a second opinion. Some health plans actually require one, especially when a doctor recommends surgery or an experimental therapy.
Before you make a second opinion appointment
- Tell your doctor you want a second opinion. You may not feel comfortable talking to your doctor about getting another opinion. To make the conversation easier, let your doctor know you are satisfied with your care, but that you want to ensure you have explored all available treatment options. It may help to bring a family member or friend along for support.
- Check with your insurance provider. Before you schedule an appointment, find out what your policy covers. You may need to get a second opinion from a doctor within your plan.
- Request your medical records. You'll want to bring your lab results, test results and scans (such as original X-rays or MRI or CT scans) with you to your appointment. To request copies of your medical records, you need to send a written request to our Health Information Management Office. Please allow 7 to 14 days for processing of your request, so make sure to schedule your second opinion appointment far enough out to allow time for your records to arrive. You can also have the new doctor's office request your records from your original doctor, if that is more convenient.
Schedule interviews with several doctors. If you don't need treatment right away, take some time to choose a doctor or surgeon who is the best fit. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Are you board certified?
- How long have you been treating patients with my diagnosis?
- What treatments do you offer for my condition?
- Are you offering any clinical trials for people with my diagnosis?
- What are your office hours?
- How often do you perform the surgery I need?
- What is your success rate on the surgery I need?
Finding a doctor for a second opinion appointment
- Ask your doctor. Your specialist should be able to give you the name of a specialist who has experience treating people with your diagnosis. If you don't have a specialist, ask your primary care doctor.
- Use a physician referral service. Many facilities have physician referral services that you can call or search online. You can find out more about the doctors in your area, such as their training, areas of expertise, office locations, accepted insurance plans and languages spoken.
- Ask your insurance provider. Your insurance provider may be able to provide you with a list of approved specialists associated with your plan.
Choosing a doctor for a second opinion appointment
- Look for a doctor experienced in treating your condition. This is especially important if you have a rare or complex condition. Studies have shown that the more experience doctors have treating a specific condition, the more successfully they can treat it.
- Seek out a doctor at an accredited hospital. For some conditions, accreditation means that a hospital has met certain standards and has the staff, facilities and other resources needed to provide the highest quality of care for patients.
- Make sure you are comfortable with nurses and support staff. They will be the ones providing your day-to-day care, answering questions and helping you schedule appointments, deal with your insurance company, obtain prescription refills and other important issues.
- Find out if you have options to offset the cost of care. If you don't have health insurance, many hospitals help patients apply for Medicaid, offer payment plans or have charity care provisions.