By: Alaap Anklesaria, MS HCM
Most parents do not know what else they can do when their child is diagnosed with a serious illness. This news is often shocking and overwhelming that parents do not remember much from the initial consultation. Consequently, a visit to a specialist becomes inevitable.
Studies show that as many as 20% of patients seek second medical opinions; in specialties such as oncology, radiology the rate is as high as 50%. Recent research has found that second opinions often result in different diagnoses or treatments.
Dr. Garry Choy, a radiologist and an expert on medical second opinions notes that “pediatric diagnoses are challenging and often require the best minds to determine the correct diagnosis”.
However, seeking a medical second opinion from an expert is not straightforward. Often times, parents have to rely on their network of pediatricians, friends, and family. For radiology, Dr. Choy outlines five simple steps that parents can take to get a medical second opinion for their child.
- Step 1: Discuss with your pediatrician if you think there would be value in seeking a medical second opinion.
- Step 2: Find a specialist or sub-specialist you would like to get a second opinion from. Again your pediatrician might have some specialists in mind. Other parents talk to their friends, families, or contact local chapters of a medical society for suggestions of specialists. Once you find a specialist, assess how long it will take for you to get the second opinion report back.
- Step 3: Find out the cost of the medical second opinion service and if your insurance plan covers second opinion services. FSA (flex spending accounts ) and HSA (health savings accounts) likely may also provide coverage. Also lastly, while less common, check with your employer if you have any subsidies for child health expenses. Most health insurance plans do not cover costs for medical second opinion services and as a result you may have to pay out of pocket.
- Step 4: Review the checklist of documentation you need to send for medical second opinion. For radiology these are the actual x-ray images, CT images, MRI images often stored on a CD-ROM or digitally online. Gathering laboratory tests and other medical record information will make the second opinion more useful and help the specialist render the best opinion. Find out how to send these documents to the specialists. There are HIPAA requirements for transmitting and storing patient data to keep in mind as well.
- Step 5: After you get a second opinion expert report, seek the guidance of your pediatrician to interpret the overall report including medical terminology in the report as well as clinical actionability. The second opinion will likely guide the next steps and determine the best next steps including, if necessary, any additional tests or treatment for your child.
Alaap Anklesaria is an intern with Xpertcare, an online medical second opinion service for pediatric patients.