When Should I Get a Second Opinion?

Published: January 03, 2020

Rod Acosta, MD, Interim Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs, and Chief Medical Officer. President & Chief Executive Officer, Stamford Health Medical Group

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Whether you’re facing the prospect of surgery or a new treatment plan, you may be wondering if and when to get a second opinion. A second opinion can bring peace of mind and are routine requests in medical practice today. A second opinion can help to make you more informed, involved and engaged in your care and treatment.

So, what should you consider before getting a second opinion? These 7 questions can help to get you started so you do not delay your care and recovery.

Thought bubble with a light bulb: Getting a Second Opinion 7 Common Questions1. How urgent is this procedure or treatment?
In an emergency or life-threatening situation, there may not be enough time to get another opinion. If the treatment or procedure is not urgent, sometimes also described as "elective," a second opinion may be the best way to be confident that this course is the best for you.

2. How unusual or serious is my condition?
The answer to this question will most likely be very important in deciding whether or not to pursue a second opinion. There may be alternatives to consider before agreeing to have a major surgery. Call your primary care physician (PCP) about where and how to get a second opinion, too.

3. How quickly should I get a second opinion?
The purpose of the second opinion is to confirm your diagnosis and the treatment options available to you. So you should get the second opinion right away to avoid delays in care.

4. Will I offend my doctors if I ask for a second opinion?
Considering and asking for a second opinion should not offend your doctor. Physicians understand that you have to be well informed before you make important decisions.

  • Some physicians encourage second opinions and know that if the second opinion matches theirs, you will return to their care.
  • If you are not comfortable with your diagnosis, the treatment plan, and certainly if your questions are not answered, then a second opinion is a good idea.
  • If your physician is offended, it is a sign that a second opinion is a very good idea.

5. Should I get a second opinion from the same group or institution?
I do not recommend that approach because institutions and groups often approach problems similarly. You need another perspective which you will get elsewhere. Your PCP can help.

6. Will my insurance company pay for a second opinion?
In many cases, your insurance will pay for a second opinion and perhaps even a third opinion if the first two opinions differ. You have to work directly with your insurance company to understand your benefits and your plan. Call the number on the back of your insurance card or the benefit questions number on the website.

7. How do I prepare for a second opinion visit?
When you make your appointment, make sure that the doctor’s office knows that you want a second opinion. They will explain their process to get your records, x-rays and previous tests. Also remember to ask them where to park, how long it usually takes and any costs that need to be paid that day.

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