Crystal’s primary care physician recommended a course of treatment for her chronic condition, but she decided to consult with another physician who specializes in that area. Not because she didn’t trust her doctor, but because she wanted the reassurance that her doctor’s approach was the best approach.
The second opinion physician essentially supported her doctor’s treatment plan, but offered a couple of suggestions regarding how her condition should be monitored, which would result in less frequent tests and a newer medication that has been shown to be more effective.
Now, Crystal needs to talk to her doctor about what she learned. She isn’t so comfortable with this conversation.
If you have obtained a second opinion from another physician, at some point you will most likely want to return to your current physician to review the results. This can be an uncomfortable discussion, especially if you are concerned about being viewed as distrustful of your doctor, or if he/she reacts in a defensive manner. But it doesn’t have to be. After all, this is an exchange of information, just as you exchange other information and suggestions with your doctor.
Here are some ideas to guide you in having this discussion with your doctor:
Inform your doctor that you want to go over the results of a second opinion. Notice, I said inform. Not explain. Nor make excuses. Don’t go on the defense or the offense. You might say something like, “It’s important to me to have more than one perspective on my treatment, so I met with Dr. "X" to get her perspective on my condition and how she would treat it.” Ideally, you and your doctor would discuss your plans for a second opinion beforehand, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Bring any related test results. If the other physician had any additional testing done, bring the results with you, or ask to have them sent. Request that the other physician send a report to your doctor, or bring it with you.
Summarize what you heard. Focus on your key takeaways including what the second opinion physician may have recommended. Be concise. “I made some notes during my meeting with Dr. "X". I want to tell you what was most important to me.”
Express any concerns you have about your current treatment. Or questions. While the second opinion may support your current course of treatment, you may hear not only a different approach to treating your condition, you may also hear a different opinion regarding your diagnosis. View this as information for you and your doctor to consider together. “Dr. "X" suggested that the best course of treatment would be this. I’d like to know what you think about that.”
Determine the next steps with your doctor. You and your doctor may decide to continue with your current treatment plan, with or without a few modifications based on the second opinion. Let your doctor know how you would like the second opinion to impact your treatment. “I thought this sounded like a good idea. Is that something we should consider?” Ideally, the second opinion doctor was someone you chose because of a proven track record and whose opinion you value. Again, input into your treatment plan, not an indictment of incompetence.
If your doctor disagrees with the second opinion, the ball is in your court. You have a few options. Don’t assume that either doctor is correct, or incorrect, or that there is only one way to treat your condition. You might consider asking them to talk with each other, keeping in mind that you may have to give them both a push to make this happen. If you aren’t comfortable going in one direction or the other, then consider a third opinion.
A quick reminder: Before you meet with the second opinion physician, arrange for your physician’s office to send test results and even your current treatment plan to the physician providing the second opinion. This way, you can avoid repeating tests you have already undergone. And if any additional tests are being recommended, ask why. Avoid duplication of testing, which can be both a waste of your time and a waste of valuable healthcare resources.
You and your doctor: It’s not love, it’s business. Get all the information you can. And share what you learn. That’s teamwork.