While our government leaders are busy debate “health reform”, I often get the sense they forget that most of us have medical needs now that need to get addressed in today’s very broken system. Our medical needs and those of our kids are actually blind and deaf to their discussions because they just wanted to get addressed – today.
While today’s system is far from perfect, there is still a lot we can do to get the care we need. Instead of blindly accepting the system as is, we can become more empowered and partner with our physicians as advocates of our own health care, and those of our loved ones such as our kids. This means speaking up when we have questions and becoming more health literate. This also means working with our physicians to be sure the treatment we receive works for our lives. To accomplish this, we may have to seek more than one opinion on a health matter, and that’s not only ok to do but possible even in today’s chaotic health climate.
All too often I see people settle for treatment plans they are not comfortable with instead of pushing their current doctor for alternatives or seeking an alternative opinion. After going through my own health hurdles the last two years, some medical and one surgical, I can attest to the value of asking questions, seeking additional opinions and even switching primary care doctors if needed.
The goal isn’t to find someone to give you the answer you seek but to find someone who will take the time to listen and help you find the answer to what’s going on in a way that makes you feel comfortable with the result, whatever it is. Sometimes accomplishing that requires more than one opinion and it’s our right as patients to obtain that input.
Seeking a second opinion can help you in the following situations:
1. Confirming a major diagnosis.
2. Obtaining another opinion about treatment for a medical condition.
3. Obtaining another opinion about treatment for a surgical condition.
4. Helping clarify an unclear medical or surgical situation.
5. If you are unhappy with the care given by a previous provider and want additional input.
6. If the advice given seems different from what you’ve read or been told by your physician. (Always confirm online sources with your primary care physician before worrying too much and be sure you basing your opinion off of true medical sources such as WebMd or a medical association website).
Try to see the top consultant in your area. Sometimes this will be at a community hospital and sometimes at a big medical center. Your primary care physician can help guide you to who would be best given your situation.
So, if you are struggling with a medical situation and are feeling unsure about the path you are on, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns. It’s your health – so ask for what you need. Even a broken system can give you that.