Getting a medical second opinion could save or change your life

Several years ago, I read an interesting book called the Culture Code. It was written by marketing guru Clotaire Rapaille.

In his long marketing career, Rapaille conducted research that allowed him to boil down virtually any product or service into a very short description or code word. For example, for coffee, he found that Americans associate the smell of coffee with warm feeling about their mother. That is because most of us grew up experiencing our moms brewing and drinking coffee in the morning.

Naturally, as Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I was curious and looked into the code word is for a doctor. As it turns out, for older Americans the code word is healer. Guess what the code word is for younger Americans? Assembly line technician. Wow. In just a few words, that sums up the changes in medicine over the past generation in the United States.

One of dangers of having an assembly line medicine is that many doctors try to put everyone in a box. As long as your symptoms, condition, or whatever is bothering you fits in the box, they can treat you. But if you have something going on that is unusual and does not fit in the box, some doctors will still try to cram you into a box.

As a Houston lawyer who has sued many hospitals and doctors on behalf of patients, I have heard time and time again from my clients of how they felt that their doctors would just not listen to them. Even before hearing all the details of what brought them into the doctor’s office for a visit, or doing any type of examination, clients have told me that their doctors had already reached a conclusion and were ready to move on.

When doctors do not listen to their patients about what they are feeling and experiencing, it puts the patients in danger. When doctors are in a rush to move on to the next patient, they risk making bad decisions based on incomplete information.

That is why it is so important to play a very active role in your health care, rather than just accepting the doctor’s opinion, even when you have concerns that he may be wrong. Sometimes that means you should not move forward with treatment until you get a second opinion.

Second opinions frequently uncover medical errors

Mayo Clinic researchers recently published a study on the value of second opinions in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The results are shocking.

The Mayo Clinic is a respected major research hospital system. Many people go there for a second opinion on a diagnosis that they received from another doctor or hospital, or to get a second opinion on whether they should move forward with someone else’s recommendation for treatment of a complex condition.

In those situations, up to 88% of the patients leave the Mayo Clinic with either a new diagnosis altogether, or a refined diagnosis that would change their care plan and potentially their lives. On the converse, the Mayo Clinic confirmed that the original diagnosis was complete and correct for only 12% of the patients.

This study is consistent with the National Academy of Medicine, which had this to say about errors in diagnosis: 

Despite the pervasiveness of diagnostic errors and the risk for serious patient harm, diagnostic errors have been largely unappreciated within the quality and patient safety movements in health care. Without a dedicated focus on improving diagnosis, these errors will likely worsen as the delivery of health care and the diagnostic process continue to increase in complexity.

What you can do

Always remember that, as the patient, you are the most important part of the healthcare team, and you have a voice. I would be surprised if any doctor would disagree with that statement.

You know what you feel and you know your symptoms and problems. If you think that your doctor is not actively listening to you or is rushing to a conclusion, do what you can to try and direct her attention to what you are saying.

If that does not work, then consider seeking a second opinion. Consider using a specialist for the second opinion. For example, if you are having breathing issues, you may want to obtain the second opinion from a pulmonologist. You could ask your primary care doctor for a referral or recommendation, if needed.

If you or someone you care for has been injured, or worse, from a doctor’s misdiagnosis or bad treatment decision, then call 281-580-8800, for a free consultation with the Houston medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.