As the term suggests, Second Opinion in healthcare is a practice to seek an additional opinion from a different doctor on a treatment recommended by the primary doctor.
It is a common practice in India these days where patients get a treatment plan by their local doctor and then at times head to another city (probably a bigger metro or Tier II city) to get a Second Opinion. There are situations where the patient also switches treatment to the new doctor – a phenomenon known as ‘Medical Tourism’ (in this case travel within the country).
This can be extended across borders too and patients travel from other countries to India to seek a Second Opinion and even get treated in India.
For a Patient the key is choosing the right doctor for the Second Opinion. Most often, patients or care takers seek assistance from their friends/contact/family to identify the specialist in a particular field. At other times, the internet seems to be the best bet.
To cater to this mobile segment of the Patient population, Providers (hospitals) have geared up by:
- Setting up satellite clinics in other places (outside their primary location)
- Developing a strong telemedicine facility in-house and in the target market
- Being more active on the digital front – website, social media
For a Patient, once a doctor is identified, it is important to share all the information with the doctor.
a) A physical meet is preferred since the doctor examines the patient and can provide accurate diagnosis/action steps
b) Given time/distance constraints, especially if it involves travel across countries, the digital route can also be taken. Of late, different digital channels are used for seeking an Opinion – email, whatsapp, phone call – The patient shares photo images of all diagnostic reports, Xrays, photo images of CT/MRI scans etc.
The key though here is – the patient must share all the latest as well as past reports.
The following could serve as a general guide on what a Provider requires for a more comprehensive Second Opinion:
- Complete profile information of the patient – Age, Nationality, Blood Group, Gender, Marital Status, City/Country of Origin etc – These are critical as there could be age/gender/geographic specific background for specific ailments.
- All investigation reports, original CT/MRI/Xray/Angiogram images from the laboratory. (Remember different radiologists interpret the images in different ways, so a report alone may not be totally helpful for the doctor).
- Any physical images of the affected area, a complete assessment of the pain areas that the patient is suffering from.
- Any other indicators – Past surgeries, Hypo/Hyper tension, current medication, allergies etc.
Key elements to look out for when seeking an Opinion are:
a) Ensure the doctor who is giving the feedback has the right expertise and is the specialist of the specific area – this can be done by getting details of the doctor’s degrees/diplomas, his past work and his experience in treating/diagnosing similar cases.
b) Keep in mind that sharing all the relevant information is key as partial information may lead to incorrect diagnosis too.
Disclaimer: The content above strictly reflects only my experience in the healthcare sector and feedback that I have collated from my association with the medical fraternity.