Getting a Second Opinion on OB-GYN Care

A quick look at medical second opinions

Seeking a second opinion regarding an OB-GYN diagnosis, treatment plan or procedure is the proper thing for a woman to do if she has any concerns regarding her doctor’s recommendations. The physicians at CU Medicine OB-GYN East Denver (Rocky Mountain) encourage our patients to seek a second opinion or consult with specialists to ensure patients are well educated in their treatment decisions and confident in decisions made.

Due to our experience, we are approached by many patients and referring providers for a second opinion. We understand why this is done and are comfortable referring our own patients out when they feel it would be helpful.

Primary reasons to seek a second opinion are if the patient has a serious or life-threatening condition, if a greater than normal risk is involved, if treatment options presented are complicated, if the diagnosis is uncertain, or if the patient is not satisfied with the physician’s communication. Routine issues in OB-GYN care, such as birth control prescriptions or normal Pap smear testing, don’t usually call for a second opinion.

We also are available to give second opinions to women who are not our patients.

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Why is a second opinion necessary?

Healthcare choices can be some of the most important and costly decisions a woman ever makes. Receiving expert information from more than one physician can be essential in giving peace of mind when making a final decision on an aspect of care.

Reasons a woman could benefit from the advice of another doctor include:

  • She faces a procedure with heightened risk such as surgery or a complicated pregnancy.
  • The diagnosis she receives is not clear to her.
  • A recommended test or procedure is costly.
  • She is uncertain about the effectiveness of a test or procedure.
  • She does not feel comfortable with her physician’s communication.
  • She wants more information about her options.

One study published in The American Journal of Medicine showed that second opinions requested by patients resulted in changes to diagnosis for 15% of patients and changes in treatment plans for 37% of them. Concerns about treatment was the greatest reason for patient requested second opinions, followed by concern about the diagnosis. Around 94% of these patients were satisfied with the experience.

Second opinions don’t offend your OB-GYN

Some women are concerned that telling their OB-GYN they wish to get a second opinion will show they do not trust their doctor. This is not the case. Our OB-GYNs encourage women to seek the advice of another professional because it is a medically smart thing to do.

We understand that medical decisions can be complicated and, if possible, not something to rush into. Getting a second opinion can make it easier for many women to commit to a plan of action.

Physicians also know that other doctors can have insight into available treatment options or testing they don’t have. For instance, robotically trained gynecology surgeons may not be available at all practices or hospitals, and it may be in a patient’s best interest to seek out such expertise.

Benefits of a second opinion on diagnosis & medical treatment

The primary benefits of the second opinion for a patient are peace of mind and gaining additional information. It has been found that patients who request them consider the new opinion valuable because it either affirms that the originally recommended treatment or diagnosis is correct, or it results in an alternative recommendation based on additional information.

A second opinion can help in the following manner.

Confirm that the diagnosis is correct, by ensuring that the right testing has been conducted, that it has been done properly and that it is appropriately interpreted.

Validate that the treatment plan is correct and effective. It can also bring up alternatives to discuss with the original physician that might result in some alterations, or even eliminating the need for a more aggressive or invasive treatment.

Empower a woman to be completely involved in her healthcare, enabling her to make the best decisions by revealing more knowledge about her specific situation and available options.

How to get a second opinion on OB-GYN care

The first step is to tell your OB-GYN that you want to seek a second opinion. This isn’t something to be secretive about. To get the full benefit of a second opinion, the other doctor will need the patient’s medical records with the latest information on the issue being addressed.

This is the only way to get a good dialog on how the two physicians agree or disagree on a diagnosis or treatment plan. It is sometimes necessary to allow a little time to gather this information before the second appointment.

It may be important to seek the second opinion from a physician in another practice. Doctors in partnership with one another often practice in similar ways and with similar care philosophy or approach to specific medical issues. The objective is to get a different perspective.

We are well connected in the local OB-GYN community and can provide a good recommendation for our patients. A woman’s primary care physician may also have a recommendation for another doctor.

Online second opinion options are a growing segment in healthcare. Many institutions such as Stanford Medicine and Cleveland Clinic offer online second opinions.

Patients should also check with their insurance company to see if a second opinion will be covered. Depending on the insurance plan, finding a doctor in network may be necessary.

Once a second opinion is obtained, the doctor issuing it will send the information to the patient’s primary care doctor who manages her care.

What’s next?

At this point, the patient is ready to come back and talk to us about what the other doctor determined. If the second opinion affirms ours, then we will proceed with the plan, if the woman wishes.

If the new opinion recommends a different or additional test to confirm a diagnosis, we can discuss this. We will address why another test may or may not be beneficial. We’ll take the same approach for a different opinion on the treatment plan.

Of course, it’s possible that we might not agree with the other doctor’s recommendations. It is not wrong for two doctors to disagree, but it can make it more difficult for a patient to make a final decision. Most often we can find a middle ground and help the patient come to an agreement on a course of action.

We will do our best to help her make a sound decision and suggest ways for her to pursue the next steps. Ultimately, it is the patient’s decision to make, and we will do our part to help her feel comfortable and fully educated about that decision.