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Encourage patients to seek second opinions

New research shows that getting a second opinion can be good for both patient and doctor.

A study by Pinnacle Care evaluated 1,000 cases with known outcomes over a three year period, and found that almost 77 percent of "medical interventions," in which a healthcare advisory company aided patients in gaining a second opinion following their first diagnosis led to changes in the original diagnoses, treatment or treating doctor.

A total of 18 people were found to have been prescribed surgery that they did not need. That is a startlingly large number considering the invasiveness of the procedures the patients were meant to have. Miles Varn, M.D., the chief medical officer at PinnacleCare, called the statistic "eye-opening" in an interview with FierceHealthCare. "Medicine is an art as much as a science," he added. "Even well-meaning, bright physicians can disagree."

The logic is simple: The more information patients obtain, the better their health outcomes. Getting the right treatment first means having the right diagnosis. In an industry where medical errors are an acute problem, with one report suggesting that hospital mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, a second opinion can only help. 

While medical professionals may consider patient's reaching out to other doctors for second opinions an affront to their work, the truth is that allowing patients to seek other opinions builds trust and respect. The simple action of allowing, even encouraging patients to ask other doctors to confirm their illness or issue can significantly reduce the incidence of medical errors.

Miles Varn makes sure to point out to FierceHealthCare that, "It's not a fault of the individual providers at all. It's a necessary complication related to a very complex healthcare system." Still, it remains important that doctors take the time to listen to what their patients are saying. Services like Patient Approved can help physicians access feedback from individuals under their care.