Merck Manual

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How to Get a Second Opinion

How to Get a Second Opinion

  • People should check with their health insurance provider to make sure the cost of a second opinion is covered. Usually it is. They should also ask about and follow any special procedures for getting a second opinion.

  • People can ask their doctor to recommend another doctor or specialist. Most doctors welcome another opinion. However, the second doctor should not be a close associate of the first because they may share the same perspective. If people do not feel comfortable asking their doctor, they may be able to ask another doctor they trust. If not, university teaching hospitals, specialty medical societies (such as the American College of Surgeons), or insurance providers can often provide names of doctors. Although some people may not be comfortable asking their doctor about a second opinion, honestly and politely talking about why a second opinion may be helpful and asking for the most appropriate referral may improve communication and lead to better decisions.

  • People should have their medical records sent to the second doctor before the visit. That doctor then has time to look at the records, preventing unnecessary repetition of diagnostic tests. Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Confidentiality and HIPAA (HIPAA), people are required to give written permission to their original doctor to forward any records or test results.

  • People should write down questions and concerns about their disorder and bring the list to discuss with the second doctor.

  • People should generally go to the doctor in person to get the second opinion, as opposed to relying on telemedicine Using Telemedicine . For a second opinion to be meaningful, the doctor should thoroughly review the medical records and do all relevant parts of a physical examination. Often the physician may want to see some of the imaging studies (not just the reports) or pathology samples, and copies should be obtained in advance.