Medical second opinion is fairly used instrument among oncology patients and patients who need surgery. Less commonly accessible are services for pediatric patients with life threatening diagnoses.
Research by Khalilzadeh, Rahimian, Batchu, Vadvala, Novelline, and Choy found evidence that medical second opinion can improve the quality of care by reducing diagnostic errors. It is well documented that diagnostic errors can be costly in regards to patients’ morbidity and mortality.
Medical second opinion is a valuable resource in confirming diagnosis and treatment plan of a patient. In their research, they analyzed 301 cases of cervical spine CT scans of consecutive adult patients to evaluate the effectiveness of medical second opinion in radiology.
The study confirmed 63% of the cases that had been read negative and 29% of the cases that had been read positive. However, the study found 3% false diagnosis and 5% misdiagnosis.
Although second opinion consultations are common among adult patients, there are not many services for pediatric patients who can also benefit from such services. First, because pediatric diagnoses are challenging and often require the best minds to determine the correct diagnosis. A wrong diagnosis can lead to poor outcomes for children. In addition, pediatric specialty expertise tends to be concentrated at tertiary care centers such as dedicated children’s hospitals.
Second because when a parent hears that their child has been diagnosed with a serious illness they are often shocked, confused, and overwhelmed. Most of the time parents do not remember much from that meeting with pediatrician. Consequently, trips to a specialist become inevitable.
Ruetters, et. al (2016) argue that with the growing complexity of diagnostics and involvement of patients in the decision-making process, there is more and more demand for Medical second opinion. Other studies have confirmed the view that parents seek to confirm the prognosis and the pros and cons of the different treatment plans.
Of the cases that Ruetters, et. al analyzed changes in diagnosis or treatment recommendations or prognosis occurred in 69% of the cases as a result of medical second opinion. They also discovered that patient satisfaction was high among patients who sought medical second opinion because they deemed it helpful and re-assuring.
For parents, medical second opinion services are few or non-existent for pediatric patients mostly because hospitals lack structured programs for medical second opinion services.
The papers can be found here: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/26200483 and http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jop.2013.001204
Emmanuel Opati is the CEO of Xpertcare – an online Medical Second Opinion service for pediatric patients.