How to Get a Second Medical Opinion for Your Child
Getting a second opinion on your child's diagnosis or treatment plan is often a good idea, as it can help you to feel more confident and in control of your son or daughter's illness. Most doctors won't mind if you ask for a second opinion, as they support your right to be well-informed. In some cases, getting a second opinion can help you to find a specialist who knows more about your child's condition and can even suggest more aggressive or more cutting-edge treatment options.
Understanding the Need for a Second Opinion
Understand what is meant by "a second opinion".A medical second opinion does not mean that you will see another doctor regularly. Its main purpose is to get medical information or opinions about a health problem from a physician other than the regular doctor who has been providing care. The regular doctor may be your pediatrician, family physician, or a sub-specialist. Second opinions (consultations) may be obtained for several reasons:
- To identify or confirm a diagnosis.
- To help interpret a test result.
- To provide additional viewpoints and information about risks, benefits, or expected outcomes.
- To give recommendations regarding treatment choices .
- To provide an opinion about the need, type, and timing of surgery.
- To help parents make the decision to change care to another provider.
Be informed about who can request a second opinion.For health issues in infants and children, requests for a second opinion may come from several sources.
- A second opinion may be recommended by your pediatrician or family physician, especially when there is an unusual or ill-defined medical problem that is outside your physician’s area of expertise.Your child's regular doctor may also ask for a second opinion if they believe that the input of a specialist will allow him or her to provide better management
- A consultation may also be requested by your regular doctor when they are treating a condition that is not responding as expected, or when they disagree with opinions or recommendations from another doctor.
- However, you — as the parents of family members of the child — may also request a second opinion, especially when the child is suffering from a serious condition that requires important or complex decisions.
- You may also request a second opinion if you are concerned or confused about the diagnosis or treatment recommendations, if you want to be absolutely sure that all treatment options have been considered, or if you want to feel reassured that your child’s medical needs are being addressed in the best possible manner.
Evaluate whether you have valid reasons for wanting a second opinion.Before you go ahead with arranging a second opinion, it's a good idea to take a step back and re-examine the situation to ensure that you have a valid option for requesting one. Some good reasons include:
- Your doctor is uncertain about the cause or best treatment of a child’s problem, or your doctor thinks that your child may have a serious or chronic disease which would be better treated by a specialist. An example is a child with diabetes who has been treated by your family physician but is beginning to have more frequent problems with sugar control.
- You are not sure whether your child’s condition is being treated in the best possible way and want reassurance from another expert. An example is the asthmatic child whose wheezing episodes are becoming more severe, despite following your current doctor's recommendations.
- Your child’s condition has not had the expected response to a particular therapy, such as elimination of recurring serious kidney infections.
Recognize that there are poor reasons for wanting a second opinion.Sometimes parents want to seek a second opinion on their child's condition just because their current doctor tells them something that they don't want to hear. Although this is understandable, it is not a good reason for seeking a second opinion and is often just a waste of time. Other poor reasons for getting a second opinion include:
- “Shopping around” to find someone who agrees with your own opinion. Perhaps you are consulting with doctors until you find one that, like you, also opposes giving childhood immunizations
- You are hoping to get “better news” about a recent serious diagnosis.
- You are trying to delay the need to make an important treatment decision.
Arranging a Second Opinion
Be as informed as possible before making a decision.Before taking any action to arrange a second medical opinion, be sure to do your homework! Whenever possible, work with your pediatrician, family physician or specialist to prepare for a second opinion.
- Take advantage of on-line resources. You should identify sources of information written for patients and families. Also look for community or foundation sites for your child’s specific problem. These may even provide suggestions about helpful questions that you may not have considered. Being able to ask meaningful questions is a must to assure that you get meaningful information from a consultant.
- Discuss your concerns and thoughts with your child’s physician and ask for feedback and suggestions. For these discussions, be candid and ask your doctor to be candid in return.
- Discuss the reasons for a second opinion with your child and encourage questions. Otherwise he may worry that the health problems are even worse than he thought.
Let your physician know about the second opinion as early in the process as possible.As early as possible, explain to your child's primary physician that you want to arrange for a second opinion. Don’t worry about hurting your doctor’s feelings — most doctors welcome a second opinion.
- They know that it can strengthen the family’s confidence, particularly when dealing with challenging health issues. Another’s doctors viewpoint can also provide your child's physician with valuable information and experience.
- Not telling your physician or going behind her back runs a greater risk of generating hard feelings. Also bear in mind that if your doctor is “put out” or offended by the request, you’re probably seeing the wrong doctor.
Find the right consultant.Ask your child’s physician or specialist to provide several recommendations. Feel free to ask as many questions about these recommendations as possible — it's okay to ask why certain doctor's were suggested, what their areas of expertise are and whether your doctor has worked with them before.
- If possible, avoid seeing someone in your doctor’s group for the consultation; you will be more likely to get a fresh viewpoint from someone else.
- Check with friends or relatives for suggestions, especially if any of them are in the medical field. Also ask your health insurance provider for the names of physician sub-specialists in their network.
- Check websites for relevant patient organizations or foundations. There is often information available about qualified doctors by region. If there is a local chapter of the organization, contact them directly.
Check with your health insurance provider.Medical care costs add up quickly. You need to consider whether there will be additional expenses incurred from a second opinion. Inform your insurance provider of your wish to get a second opinion and, if asked, the reason for your request.
- Many insurance providers will cover second opinions, but it's important to find out ahead of time what exactly will be covered. Be sure to take into account the cost of the consultation itself along with the cost of any follow-up laboratory testing or x-ray procedures.
- If you have a particular institution or individual in mind for the second opinion, ask specifically about coverage. You may incur additional expenses if the consultant's facility is out of the network.
- If you think that you may transfer care or have a surgical procedure done at another institution after the consultation is completed, be sure that your insurance provider will cover these services and, if so, what documentation is required.
Help the consultant to prepare for your office visit.It's a good idea to be as helpful as possible in preparing the consultant for your visit. After all, you are asking for the doctor to evaluate and provide an opinion about your child’s previous medical course, current status, and future considerations. Any previous medical records or information you can provide will be useful.
- Call your consultant’s office and ask what specific records should be obtained so that the information is relevant to the consultation. It is a waste of time for a consultant to have to wade through a huge packet of irrelevant information. When you request records, be specific about what you need and the inclusive dates
- Provide the consultant with your child's medical records at least one week before your scheduled visit, earlier if you live far from the consultant. You may have to provide written permission to each site of care to release the requested information.
Obtain the necessary medical records.As mentioned above, you should provide the consulting physician with any requested medical records. Previous records should include those from all individuals who have had significant involvement in your child’s health problem. Specifically, these records may include:
- Specific office visit records: you may need all of them, just the ones to the specialist, or only the summary letters from a specialist to your doctor.
- Other clinical records, such as hospitalization discharge summaries, surgery reports, specific hospital flow sheets, special studies.
- Radiology studies including x-rays, sonograms, CT scans, fluoroscopy, MRI, or special procedures. Often, the consultant will want to see the actual radiology images, not just the reports. If so, inform the radiology facilities where studies were done and request that they provide copies. Today, nearly every major radiology facility or practice is able to easily copy the studies to a CD or DVD disk for your consultant.
- Results of previous laboratory tests. If less common tests have been done and requested by the consultant (genetic studies or special hormone profiles for example), be sure you include these in your request.
Explain your hopes and expectations to the consulting physician.When you meet with the doctor, start by stating why you are there and what you hope to accomplish. Be sure to provide important background detail, but be as brief as possible so you don’t unnecessarily reduce the time for questions and discussion.
- Understand and be clear about your concerns; be sure that those concerns are addressed in your discussion with the consultant. After all, that’s why you wanted a second opinion in the first place.
- You may be anxious or pre-occupied during the visit. Be sure that you have written down your main questions beforehand so you don’t forget to ask. Also bring along a notebook to write down key information – you are not likely to remember all of it later.
Compare the opinions and recommendations of both doctors.If the consulting physician's recommendations differ significantly from those of your original doctor, ask the consultant to explain the reasons and importance of the differences.
- At the end of the visit, be sure to request a copy of the consultant’s report that is sent to your doctor. However, be cautious about interpreting the report without medical input. It’s advisable to review it with your original physician specialist.
- Pay particular attention to any areas of disagreement between your doctor and the consultant. Some of these may be of little significance; a preference for one brand over another of the same drug, or two basically equivalent radiology studies.
- However, more significant disagreements could pose a more serious issue, and you should discuss these with your child's primary physician.
Understand the possible outcomes of getting a second opinion.There are several possible outcomes following a consultation with a second doctor. The most likely of these include the following:
- One:You feel reassured, and are satisfied with your doctor’s care management.
- Two:Your doctor considers the consultant’s comments to be valuable and is willing to modify care accordingly and to your satisfaction.
- Three:You decide to continue your child’s care with the consultant, with or without your doctor’s involvement.
- If you are unable to decide whose recommendations to follow, consider asking the physicians if they would be willing to discuss the case with one another; as there may be factors that neither of them took into account. Your other choice, which is justified in certain circumstances, would be to obtain a third opinion from another consultant.
QuestionAfter getting a second opinion, I found that the medical and surgical procedures were done wrong. How do I get a refund for my expenses?HochimamaCommunity AnswerYou probably need to consult a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice. They will know how to help you.Thanks!
- If the consultant wants to obtain laboratory or radiology tests that you believe have been done previously, it is OK to ask whether these results are already in the records you provided. The doctor may have good reasons for additional tests, but sometimes things are requested more automatically than purposefully.
Sources and Citations
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