The POWER in emPOWERed Patient

It is often hard to feel as if you have any power or say when visiting the doctor or lying in a bed in the hospital.  Most people are not medical and don’t understand much of the jargon being bantered around.  We struggle to make sense of what has happened to our body.  We don’t know what questions to ask.  We are given little time to make decisions or sometimes we learn of decisions made for us after the fact.

As patients and caregivers, we do have a say.  We have the power to participate in our own healthcare.  We have the power to create and demand a partnership with the medical team.  We have the power to say no to a treatment or medication without prejudice from the medical team.

One of the areas that a patient has a say is the second opinion.  I am a strong believer in the second opinion.  Medical professionals often differ on their approach and treatment.  Some are very aggressive while others may be conservative.  A second opinion allows the patient to investigate treatment options and make an informed decision.  It also allows for a patient to make sure they feel comfortable with the doctor or surgeon.  It is your body and your life.

Many clients worry that their medical team will become resentful  when seeking a second opinion.  I have found most doctors are supportive and actually will tell you to get a second opinion.  Of course, there are arrogant doctors and surgeons who just simply can’t understand why you would want someone else.  It doesn’t mean they won’t be your doctor if you decide to stay with them.

I have seen a second opinion save someone’s life.  The doctor who did the second opinion was using a new and cutting edge treatment with good results AND it was paid for by the insurance company.  I especially think with any cancer diagnosis getting a second opinion is vital.  I am always surprised at the difference in treatment approaches and supportive services.  Be sure to seek an opinion outside the current system being used.

The biggest problem I run into in getting a second opinion is timing.  As we all know, doctors schedules, especially specialists are booked out for weeks.  The best way I have found to get an appointment moved up is to continually call the appointments person and if possible have the primary care office call.  Many offices understand the urgency and will do what they can.  A colleague of mine had a diagnosis of breast cancer and wanted a second opinion from a surgeon.  She told the office she would meet at any time including before the start of surgery at 7AM.  The surgeon saw her at 6:45AM.  Let the office know you can come any time.

Medical records are needed for an appointment. Call the office and ask exactly what is needed. Usually included are all physician notes, diagnostic imaging, labs and pathology notes.  If possible get the notes to the office ahead of the apopintment. This will streamline the appointment.  Medical records can be obtained from the either the physicians office or if attached to a hospital from medical records.  Sometimes I call the pathology department directly to ask for a copy of the report.

Most insurance companies cover a second opinion.  They may require a prior approval.  I have seen denials and an appeal necessary to show medical necessity.  If there is an appeal always ask to have it expedited.

Some of the major specialty centers will provide a remote second opinion. Cleveland Clinic, http://www.eclevelandclinic.org/productHome.jsp  is one of these centers.

If you are feeling unsure about a treatment course, get a second opinion.  If nothing else, it will verify the information being given to you.  It is your right and can be very important to your health.