The doctor-patient encounter has traditionally been a strict relationship between a physician and the patient requesting the services. However, there were always concerns regarding the cost of the services and how accessible the services were. Starting some decades ago, insurance companies (private and government owned) started to participate in the relationship in an effort to make it more efficient. This had the consequence of spreading the risk and making healthcare more available to people.
As time passed, healthcare became more dependent on the wellbeing of the insurance programs or companies. In order to be able to provide for all enrollees, the reimbursements to the providers started to decrease and, as a consequence of that, the time that the providers give to the patients also started to decrease (because they had to see more patients in less time so as to pay for overheads and remain profitable.)
The natural result of this is that people remain with more unanswered questions and more doubts regarding their conditions or diseases. In this current world of gigantic leaps in the development of pharmaceuticals, surgical techniques, gene therapy, amongst others, the explanations that professionals (primary care providers and specialists) need to give their patients are complex. Many patients try to enhance their knowledge by using the internet. This is risky. The internet is filled with unreviewed information posted by un-credentialed people who might confuse or even misguide the patient who needs more answers.
A second medical opinion is a tool that will enable patients to be better informed, to be more reassured regarding their conditions and to bring up the possibility of more educated and effective communication with their doctors. For complex problems, two minds are better than one.
Marco A. Ramos MD
Published originally on the Second Medical Opinions blog on June 10, 2014