Making medical decisions can be stressful. Whether you are newly diagnosed with an orthopaedic condition, struggling with chronic pain, or recovering from acute trauma, it can be overwhelming to navigate care and treatment options. It’s important that you have a doctor you trust, and with whom you feel comfortable.
Receiving a diagnosis is just the first step. You may also have questions about whether or not to get a second opinion.
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Reasons to consider a second opinion
Maybe the diagnosis is not something you expected, and you just want someone else to say the same words as a second check. Sometimes patients like to hear different opinions on what the next steps in their treatment would be so they can make the most informed decision. Whatever the reason, the decision is yours, and it’s perfectly normal to want to seek a second opinion.
You are in charge of the decisions that are made regarding your health. You owe it to yourself to feel comfortable with your decisions.
How to go about getting a second opinion
A good place to begin when seeking a second opinion is your primary care provider or another trusted doctor that you may see. Friends and relatives are other great people to ask for recommendations of good doctors, especially if they have been treated with the same condition or know someone who has been.
Hospital’s online physician profiles as well as unbiased medical listings can come in handy when finding out more information about the doctor that you end up choosing. You can find these publications online or at your local library - libraries often provide free access to these subscription based services. A good place to start is the American Medical Association, U.S. News & World Report Doctor Finder, and the AAOS. Further, specialty societies generally house listings of specialists in that area. For example, if you are looking for a hip or knee specialist, visit the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.
Be sure to check with your insurance company to make sure that the doctor that you have chosen is within your health insurance network so that you are not surprised by unexpected medical expenses.
Now that you’ve chosen a doctor for a second opinion
Have all of your medical records forwarded to his or her office or get a complete set yourself and bring them with you as well as a copy of all relevant images to the appointment. Also bring with you a list of questions that you would like answered. This will allow for a more focused appointment. It will also ensure that you leave the appointment with a clearer second opinion.
It’s also a good idea to bring someone with you to the appointment if at all possible. Having an extra set of ears and some extra support may alleviate some of the stress of meeting someone new and hearing their opinion. Take notes, and make sure you fully understand what the doctor has said. A friend or relative can make sure that you have an accurate recollection of the conversation.
What if the medical opinions differ?
A good question to ask yourself is: Does the plan of the initial doctor or the second doctor make the most sense, involve the least risk, and focus on the medical issues that are most important to you? Have trusted family and friends help you make the most informed decision and the one that is best for YOU. Every patient’s situation is different and it is important that you are on board with the treatment plan that you ultimately choose.
Second opinions make a difference
The specialists at Penn Orthopaedics and the Penn Musculoskeletal Center have helped many patients find better treatment options than those recommended by other providers.