How to Get a Second Opinion

Key Points

Receiving a new health diagnosis can be tumultuous. While you’re trying to figure out next steps, there’s one important question to consider. Did you get a second opinion? Whether you’re looking for alternate treatment options or just for diagnosis confirmation, it’s always a good idea to consult multiple doctors before making a critical health decision.

First things first:

What is a second opinion?

Getting a second opinion means choosing to see a second doctor or specialist after you receive an initial medical diagnosis or treatment plan. As a patient, you’re within your rights to visit as many doctors as you like before making a decision about your health. 

Even though it’s called a “second opinion,” you can get a third or even fourth opinion in order to be confident in your decisions and next steps.

Why should you get a second opinion?

If you have any uncertainty when making a key decision about your health, it’s normal and even expected to want a second opinion. Diagnostic errors happen. You might be debating different protocols or treatments depending on your personal circumstances or beliefs. And especially with intense treatments, such as chemotherapy or major surgery, a single mistake in the procedure can prove debilitating or even fatal. 

You’ll want to be certain you’re making the best possible decision for your health, and for anything critical, a second opinion can offer valuable insights for your decision-making process. 

It’s important to know that a second doctor’s analysis may not be different from your initial opinion. However, the new physician may suggest different treatment options or outline different pros and cons. 

When is it okay to get a second opinion?

A second opinion is standard practice within most areas of medicine, and your doctor should be entirely comfortable with your decision to confirm their recommendation. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for this second opinion before you even ask, but you are free to make your own decision around which additional doctor, or doctors, you choose to see. 

That said, it can sometimes be challenging to gather the confidence to ask your doctor. Rest assured, you’re not insulting their expertise by letting them know you’ll be seeking a second opinion. If you’re feeling nervous, a patient advocate can accompany you to your doctor’s appointment and help make sure you know all the right questions to ask. 

How do you get a second opinion?

Your new doctor or specialist will review your medical history and provide their own interpretation of your health conditions. They can also provide input on your initial diagnosis or treatment plan. 

Before seeing a second physician, you’ll want to ask for an updated copy of your medical records—including your doctor’s proposed treatment plan. Your doctor is legally required to share a copy with you upon request. Some offices may charge a fee, though that’s not typical. 

Once you’ve obtained your medical records, take some time and decide what you want to learn and what your goals are for your new appointment. Write down any and all questions before you go, and bring those questions to your visit.

If you’re not sure what questions you should be asking or want help navigating your second opinion, reach out to Solace today. A patient advocate would be happy to help you navigate these important decisions to find the best health outcome for you. 

Sara Sargent
Co-Founder & CPO at Solace

Sara has led creative, brand, marketing and product teams for some of the fastest-growing startups in the U.S. She has written for multiple billionaires, international NBA stars and Nobel Prize winners and is brought to you mostly by multiple shots of espresso, administered daily.

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