At CalSpine MD, our spine surgeon, Dr. Hieu Ball, provides second opinions for patients whose doctors tell them that they have a health problem or suggests a treatment for an illness or injury that causes them concern.
If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut. It is important to be proactive about your own healthcare, especially if you are uncomfortable with your current doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Don’t be embarrassed about telling your doctor that you want a second opinion. Being proactive and being well-informed will give you a greater degree of control over your treatment.
If your current doctor gives you grief about it, it is time to find a new doctor.
What is a second opinion?
A second opinion is when a second doctor other than your current doctor reviews your medical records and offers an opinion about your diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes a second opinion may be in agreement with your first doctor’s diagnosis and recommended treatment plan, and sometimes not.
Remember that getting a second opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that the second opinion is the right opinion. Sometimes patients even get a third opinion. The key here is whether the diagnosis and treatment recommendation make sense to you. A clear anatomic diagnosis should be provided by your surgeon; in other words, a specific target has to be identified and verified by physical examination and diagnostic testing before proceeding. Recognize that doctors will only make recommendations on procedures that they know how to do or are comfortable doing. For example, a doctor who only does fusions will not likely consider artificial disc replacement. Get the complete facts by talking to health care providers who have a broad background of expertise.
Dr. Ball specializes in clear communication of conditions and explanations of all available treatment options so that patients are more comfortable making an informed decision about their care.
Does insurance cover second opinions?
Many health plans cover second opinions but call your health plan provider to make sure it is covered before you schedule an appointment.
Under what circumstances should you get a second opinion?
You should get a second opinion if
- You have undergone treatment for a condition, but symptoms continue.
- You are diagnosed with a rare disease.
- You are uncomfortable with the diagnosis or treatment recommendation or feel that not enough time was spent explaining your condition and treatment recommendation.
- You are diagnosed with cancer.
- You are looking for a less invasive procedure that is not as risky or has lifelong consequences.
What are the benefits of getting a second opinion?
Getting a second opinion can be very useful especially if you are considering surgery or some other major procedure. Being well-informed often helps patients to weigh the pros and cons before making a health decision.
The other benefits of getting a second opinion are
- Confirming a medical diagnosis and treatment options.
- Protecting yourself from a misdiagnosis.
- Considering a different diagnosis.
- Learning about the best treatment options.
- Becoming aware of alternative treatment options.
- Getting peace of mind.
If you have an emergency health issue, however, you may not have the time to wait for a second opinion, and in such cases, you should get the clarity and reassurance you are seeking from your doctor.
How do you find a doctor for a second opinion?
Here are some tips you can follow to get the name of a doctor for a second opinion:
- Ask your doctor for the name of another reputable doctor for that specialty, preferably someone at a different institution that is outside of the institutional culture and viewpoint.
- Check the provider listings from your health plan.
- Do an internet search for a spine surgeon in your city, and check out the patient reviews.
- Ask friends and family, pain management doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other health providers for referrals to doctors.
Should you tell your doctor you are looking for a second opinion?
Yes, you should tell your doctor you are looking for a second opinion so that you can have your medical records, labs, and any imaging studies sent to the second doctor. This will also help to keep communication open between the two doctors where they will most likely be discussing the areas of agreement and disagreement.
How should you prepare for a second opinion?
Once you schedule an appointment for a second opinion, make sure you ask your first doctor’s office to send your test results and other records to the second doctor. Before your appointment, call the second doctor’s office to make sure he/she has received your records. Bring any operative reports of prior surgeries and CDs of imaging studies performed within the last year to the second opinion appointment.
In preparing for your appointment, write down the concerns that prompted you to get a second opinion, so you can discuss them with the second doctor.
Why should you schedule a second opinion with Dr. Ball?
At CalSpine MD, Dr. Ball has the ability to explain a patient’s diagnosis often in a way that just makes sense. He believes that understanding the problem clearly helps the patient make significant progress in his/her treatment, and thus he takes the time to educate his patients fully.
Additionally, Dr. Ball has a broad range of expertise in many techniques including artificial disc replacement/non-fusion technologies, and he specializes in minimally invasive spine care for adult and pediatric patients. He offers his patients surgical and nonsurgical treatments that help keep them on their feet and enjoying life. With minimally invasive spine surgery, many patients experience less pain, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recoveries. Dr. Ball’s patient-centered, individualized approach to caring for patients helps him achieve accurate diagnoses and logical treatment plans that optimize the spinal health outcomes for his patients. His approach is not what you find in typical, high volume offices–in every case, he puts a strong emphasis on education and communication for better patient outcomes.