Second Opinions in the US - Are They Equal?


As a patient living outside of the United States, you may receive a diagnosis, treatment plan, or other medical advice that does not seem right. This pushed many people to seek second opinions in other countries with more developed healthcare systems. Obviously, the United States stands out when it comes to using the best technology and the latest guidelines to manage patients. (1) We covered the details of getting a second opinion in the US in another article.




Practically speaking, the US has thousands of hospitals with different specialties and focuses. How can you tell which medical institution suits you best? Additionally, some of the most famous hospitals do not offer second opinion services via telehealth. Others may, in fact, offer these services but might assign under-experienced doctors for the job. (2)


To summarize, the process of getting a second opinion is not as straightforward as seems. In this article, we will discuss the factors that influence the quality of a second opinion, then give you a few pieces of advice to get the best out of your telehealth session.



Factors that impact the quality of a second opinion


The expertise of the healthcare professional


The main reason you’re getting a second opinion is because you have doubts about a diagnosis or a treatment. If you receive a rare diagnosis, it makes sense that you want to get a second opinion from an expert in the field. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with US hospitals.


For instance, Massachusetts General Hospital offers second opinion services. However, it does not specify or guarantee the expertise of the physician. As a result, you might end up paying a lot of money for a consultation with a less experienced junior doctor. We have nothing against junior doctors; however, your case might be delicate, requiring the expertise of a specialist with 20+ years of experience. The same goes for John Hopkins hospital; despite the great reputation of the latter, it may not offer you a choice that can land a best expert (3).


From where we see it, having to choose a specialist from a single institution is challenging due to the busy schedules of these healthcare workers. What’s the alternative? Keep reading to find out the best way to get a second opinion in the US.


The mean of communication


Research found that attentive listening to the patient’s medical history is key to reaching a diagnosis. (4) This is crucial when getting a second opinion as your doctor often has limited access to your health records. Sharing your story, symptoms, past incidents, and anything related to your current health status is indispensable for proper management.


Unfortunately, patients may forget to mention critical information about their disease. Similarly, doctors can omit certain questions from the virtual chat consultation. This is why a video consultation is absolutely vital to get a proper second opinion. You need to have an interactive conversation with your doctor to share everything relevant to your condition. Your doctor will also be more empathetic and do his/her best to help you.


Sadly, not all second opinion platforms offer videoconference services. You might end up reading reports from a doctor about your case, which might not be enough to achieve a valuable second opinion at times. (5)


Named patient access


After getting a second opinion, your new doctor may suggest a different approach to handle your case. Unfortunately, doctors in the US prescribe drugs that are available in the US. There is no guarantee that the prescribed drug is available in your home country. (6) The risk of unavailability is even higher when the prescribed medication is designed to treat a rare condition. The same goes for recently approved drugs (i.e., cancer therapies). At this point, you find yourself with a new diagnosis and a prescription for a potential cure but without access to treatment.


This is where named patient access comes in handy. Regrettably, not all hospitals in the US offer named patient access to specific drugs. If you haven’t read our previous post about named patient access, here is a brief definition: Named patient access allows international patients to receive medications that are unavailable in their countries from the prescriber’s country. Learn more about the regulations of this process by clicking here: https://www.medeboundhealth.com/post/named-patient-access-to-new-meds-legal-status-and-practical-considerations-2022



What makes Medebound HEALTH different?


Medebound HEALTH is a platform that offers international patients access to world-renowned physicians with decades of experience.


The big question is what makes Medebound HEALTH different from other hospitals and institutions that offer second opinion services. The answer resides within the three factors that we mentioned above:


Medebound offers international patients many hospitals and doctors to choose from. You can do your own research to decide which physician suits your case the most. Of course, we will help you through these steps. We will ensure that you get a second opinion from experienced physicians who specialize in fields relevant to your condition. Remember that Medebound HEALTH does not work with a single hospital. We closely collaborate with physicians from many elite institutions all across the US.


In addition to the written second opinion with your physician, Medebound HEALTH has the capacity and know-how to set up video second opinions to make your consultation more interactive and productive. We offer named patient services for specific medications. In other words, we will work together to help you obtain the treatments in your own hands.


Takeaway message


Understanding the factors that influence a second opinion in the US is crucial to saving your time and money. You will also be informed enough to make the best health decisions for your needs.We hope that this article helped you understand the different types of second opinions you could get. We also hope that the points covered above successfully highlighted the superiority of Medebound HEALTH over other platforms.


If you have any questions or concerns about second opinions in the US or the role of Medebound HEALTH in this ordeal, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.



References


1-Berwick, D. M., Nolan, T. W., & Whittington, J. (2008). The triple aim: care, health, and cost. Health affairs (Project Hope), 27(3), 759–769. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.27.3.759

2-Lewis, P. J., Ashcroft, D. M., Dornan, T., Taylor, D., Wass, V., & Tully, M. P. (2014). Exploring the causes of junior doctors' prescribing mistakes: a qualitative study. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 78(2), 310–319. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12332

3- Greenfield, G., Shmueli, L., Harvey, A., Quezada-Yamamoto, H., Davidovitch, N., Pliskin, J. S., Rawaf, S., Majeed, A., & Hayhoe, B. (2021). Patient-initiated second medical consultations-patient characteristics and motivating factors, impact on care and satisfaction: a systematic review. BMJ open, 11(9), e044033. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044033

4- Ohm, F., Vogel, D., Sehner, S., Wijnen-Meijer, M., & Harendza, S. (2013). Details acquired from medical history and patients' experience of empathy--two sides of the same coin. BMC medical education, 13, 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6920-13-67

5- Gogia, S. B., Maeder, A., Mars, M., Hartvigsen, G., Basu, A., & Abbott, P. (2016). Unintended Consequences of Tele Health and their Possible Solutions. Contribution of the IMIA Working Group on Telehealth. Yearbook of medical informatics, (1), 41–46. https://doi.org/10.15265/IY-2016-012

6- Phuong, J. M., Penm, J., Chaar, B., Oldfield, L. D., & Moles, R. (2019). The impacts of medication shortages on patient outcomes: A scoping review. PloS one, 14(5), e0215837. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215837

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