Study: Medical 'Second Opinion' Very Likely to Bring New Diagnosis

You often hear you should get a second opinion, especially if you have a potentially serious health issue. A recent study shows many people who seek a second opinion get a new diagnosis.

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Study: Medical 'Second Opinion' Very Likely to Bring New Diagnosis
1 Min Read May 16th, 2017 Updated:June 3rd, 2022

Over the years, numerous studies in multiple countries have shown that second opinions lead to establishing a new diagnosis. If you have a serious health problem getting a second diagnosis is encouraged. Many patients seek a second opinion to confirm a diagnosis before receiving treatment for a complex condition. However, many patients did not get the confirmation they were looking for when they went for a second opinion.

Researchers showed that about 88% of those patients who went to Mayo Clinic went home with a new or refined diagnosis. Only 12% received confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct.

Getting a second opinion could lead to quicker access to lifesaving treatment or stopping unnecessary treatments. Sometimes a doctor will suggest it; other times, the patient wants to seek another opinion. 

Most Doctors are not Specialists

Doctors don't always have the answers. Depending on where you live, there may not be an available specialist, or their level of experience may not be as comprehensive as a specialist elsewhere.

Dr. Jon O. Ebbert is the associate medical director for the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. Ebbert says that receiving care for the wrong diagnosis can send patients down a medical rabbit hole involving costly, ineffective treatments, recurring symptoms, and a nagging feeling that something just isn't right. In the worst cases, a diagnostic error can even be deadly.

It's about the right diagnosis in the right patient at the right time, and then making the right treatment recommendation. As we go through changes in the health care system, we're going to need to continue demonstrating the value of referral centers in providing expertise for making the right diagnosis.

Dr. Jon Ebbert

You might assume that a patient going to the Mayo Clinic may have more health issues than someone else. Yet, the idea of a second opinion can be valuable before starting a treatment or completing a surgery. 

As we age, we often have more complicated health issues where a second opinion could be very beneficial, not only to the potential outcome but to the quality of life. 

Sometimes someone gets diagnosed with a health problem. Not only do they not have the problem, but the medication prescribed causes other genuine health issues. 

Knowing that more than 1 out of every 5 referral patients may be completely [and] incorrectly diagnosed is troubling -- not only because of the safety risks for these patients prior to correct diagnosis, but also because of the patients we assume are not being referred at all.

James Naessens, Sc.D., a health care policy researcher at Mayo Clinic.

Too Many Meds?

Polypharmacy is defined as the use of multiple medications, generally five or more, to treat diseases and other health conditions. Older people often experience Polypharmacy. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIH), taking too many drugs can be dangerous, especially for older adults.

Instead of getting a genuine diagnosis, a doctor treats the symptoms with yet another medication. Multiple doctors are usually involved. The removal of the medications and a proper diagnosis often improve the person's health and quality of life. 

Older people tend to have multiple health issues, and many require long-term health care. Some doctors fail to take the proper time to discover the real problems resulting in unnecessary surgeries and medications. 

Those living in some long-term care facilities or with untrained family caregivers at home fail to recognize problems or make sure proper medication is taken correctly. 

Quality Care Has a Cost

Quality care often comes with a price. Many families are surprised that health insurance and Medicare won't pay for long-term health care. As an older person starts to have more problems getting the right diagnosis and care becomes more difficult. Younger patients are more proactive with health problems, but who is looking out for older people?

Unless the elderly person has a proactive family or there is enough funding for quality long-term care through LTC Insurance or personal funds, second opinions are not sought. Individuals may get treatment for something they don't have. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Being prepared for future long-term health care will give you and your family peace of mind as you get older. For many people, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance is the solution giving you access to your choice of quality care options, including care in your home.

An LTC policy safeguards income and assets and gives your loved ones the time to be family instead of your caregiver. There are consequences when you lack a plan for long-term health care. Traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will not pay for most long-term care expenses. Medicaid is only the solution when you have little or no income and assets. 

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If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

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If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation. 

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

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Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

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Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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