The Value of a Second Opinion

When your healthcare provider advises surgery or a major procedure or treatment, it's smart to get a second opinion from another expert. But how do you know a second opinion is in order? And how do you go about getting one? Here are some answers to these and other important questions.

When should you get a second opinion?

Don't waste time checking out choices if you need emergency treatment. But if your healthcare provider suggests non-emergency surgery or a major medical test, it can be worthwhile to get a second opinion for any of the following reasons:

  • Your diagnosis is unclear.

  • You've been told you have a rare or life-threatening condition.

  • You have several medical problems.

  • The advised treatment is risky, controversial, or experimental.

  • You have a choice of treatments or medical tests that vary widely in cost.

  • You're not responding to a treatment as expected.

  • You have lost confidence in your provider.

  • Your health plan requires a second opinion.

Just feeling uncertain about having surgery or a major procedure may be reason enough. After all, healthcare providers can't know everything about all conditions. Or about all the new breakthroughs in treatment being reported.

Most health insurance plans will pay for a second opinion. But be sure to contact your plan beforehand to find out for sure. In some cases, if you don't get a second opinion for a procedure, you may have to pay a higher percentage of the cost.

Where should you start?

Who should you see for a second opinion? It's a good rule to find someone with at least the same skill and knowledge level of your condition as your current provider. Think about contacting a specialist. Your current provider may be able to suggest someone.

Even better, ask someone at an institution that specializes in your condition. For instance, a cancer treatment center or a heart surgery center. These centers will have the latest technology. And a team of experts may be readily available to review your case.

What should you tell your healthcare provider?

Most healthcare providers will acknowledge their patients' right to a second opinion. So you just need to be honest and straightforward.

Be sure to ask for your medical records so you can share them with the second provider. By law, your provider must give these records to you. You may have to pay a fee to have the copies made.

What should you ask the second healthcare provider?

These questions offer a good place to start:

  • Is the diagnosis correct?

  • What are my choices, and the pros and cons of each?

  • What would happen if I waited or chose no treatment?

  • What should I do with the results?

If the second healthcare provider agrees with the first, you can move forward with more confidence.

Find a doctor or make an appointment: 636.928.WELL
General Information: 636.344.1000
BJC HealthCare