You’ll have to ‘go with your gut’ on this one, but some tips can help.
When it comes time to make home renovations, or perhaps repairs to the car, most people are comfortable with getting more than one “quote.” Maybe this is because the object in question is inanimate – not “alive” – and so we perform the due diligence we know will help us in figuring out how to best address the problem. One area, however, where plenty of people feel much less comfortable gathering more than one expert opinion on the way to address an issue – is healthcare. The problem doesn’t lay in the notion that everyone is so thrilled with the first opinion from a doctor that they don’t feel the need to seek a second (though this is the case for plenty of people). Instead, it is often a feeling that obtaining a second opinion is a sign of disrespect to the physician who gave the original treatment recommendations.
An array of research has told us, doctors, that patients who are comfortable and confident in the treatment recommendations from their providers tend to have more successful outcomes than those who aren’t. I’m not telling you to be okay with feeling awkward just for the sake of letting you squirm – it really can be a matter of life or death. Although the journey of seeking a second opinion is more art than science and you do need to trust your gut, some tips can help you get there and feel good about what you decide once you’ve arrived.
First, thing’s first – and this one has nothing to do with the actual recommendations for treatment that a doctor gives you. One of the most critical things to consider in finding the right provider for your medical concerns is whether or not he or she is a good listener who spends enough time with you. With medicine becoming more “corporatized” today, it is essential to seek out the doctors who truly listen to your needs and goals and who spend enough time in discussion with you. What’s enough? Well, it’s less about the quantity of time and more about the quality. Were your questions sufficiently answered? Did you understand the treatment recommendations and why they were given? Did you walk out feeling more informed than when you walked in and could easily explain your diagnosis and the treatment recommendations to someone who isn’t a doctor? If the answer to these questions is yes, then that’s a great sign.
Today’s patient does quite a bit of online research on a condition before they reach the doctor’s office. Whether or not you should do that is irrelevant today – it’s just the way it is. If the provider you’ve visited is recommending what seems like an “old school” approach to your condition, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it is a good idea to ask why they’ve recommended it over a more modern approach. Ask to see their curriculum vitae (the medical field’s version of a resume). Are they involved in current research? Do they attend conferences or medical seminars on the latest advances in their field? As the world around us, medicine is also ever-evolving. Finding a provider who is up-to-date on current research and treatment trends is crucial, even if he or she recommends a less modern treatment approach for you. Supporting a “traditional” treatment is fine, as long as it isn’t solely because the provider doesn’t know about more leading-edge approaches to addressing the issue.
Contrary to what some may think, even surgeons don’t usually recommend surgery as the first approach to treatment for most conditions. Outside of an emergency, few medical problems offer surgery as the first or only approach to treatment. If this is your first visit with a doctor about this particular medical concern, be wary of being offered surgery as the first or only option. So if that does happen, be sure you understand why and seek a second opinion from a different provider to ensure this is your only course for treatment. Most of the time, however, a less invasive treatment course can be attempted – which can either hold off surgery or get your condition to a manageable state such that you can continue to live an otherwise healthy and active life.
When it comes to seeking a second opinion for a medical concern, it is so much less about whether a treatment recommendation is Right with a capital R and more about how right it feels to YOU. It is your life and your body. You are the boss. The best treatment providers recognize and encourage you to have ownership over your treatment decisions, because we know that, ultimately, this will lead to more success for our patients. Find a doc who’s in it for you.