5 Steps to Getting a Second Opinion

By Lindsay Bosslett
Reviewed by John D. Hainsworth, MD, and Roy S. Weiner, MD

If a recent diagnosis means you’re facing surgery, chemo or another treatment, you’ll probably want a second opinion. Follow this five-step plan.

Step one
Let your doctor know. Don’t worry—he or she won’t be upset! In fact, your oncologist is likely to support your decision. Input from a colleague helps ensure you get the best care possible. Simply say, “Doctor, I’m sure you understand I’d like to talk to another physician about my condition. I wanted you to be aware and wonder how you’d like me to follow up.” You could even go one step further and ask for a referral.

Step two
Search for your new doctor. If your doctor can’t suggest someone, ask friends and family to recommend someone. Your insurance company may provide a list of in-network doctors in your area to help you narrow your search, or you can also visit the American Board of Medical Specialties’ website at abms.org to find a board-certified specialist in any field. 

Step three
Narrow your choices. Once you’ve compiled a few names, call to make sure the doctors are taking new patients, how long you’ll have to wait for an appointment and if the doctor accepts your insurance, then set up an appointment with the doctor who is the best fit.
Tip: Found a specialist, but she’s only accepting referrals? Tell your primary doctor to write one up for you—then ask the front desk to set up your appointment.

Step four
Get your records. Ask your primary doctor for your medical records and copies of any test results. Sending (or delivering) them yourself is the best way to make sure they get there in time for your consultation.
Tip: Aim to get them there about a week before your visit to give the doctor enough time to become familiar with your case.

Step five
Treat your second opinion like a regular appointment. Now that you’re at your visit, be prepared to discuss all your symptoms, just as you did with your primary doctor, and to go over your records and test results. Your second doctor may also ask that new or additional tests be run.

Published March 2014

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