Finding a Physician for a ‘Second Opinion’ Not So Easy

August 9, 2011

Choosing a doc for a second opinion is harder than I thought. Should one believe the happy patient video testimonials, or the negative online reviews?

After getting a medical diagnosis that required I see a specialist for potential treatment options, I diligently followed my primary-care physician’s advice and went to the first specialist she recommended. 

An Internet search revealed that Dr. S is one of the best, if not the best, physicians in his area of medicine in my state. He has high ratings on doctor ratings sites (save for a few disgruntled patients who accused him of being money hungry) and excellent credentials.

Unfortunately, Dr. S’s assessment of my condition leaned more toward realism than optimism, which is pretty much what I expected. Still, I loved his practice and could see myself being happy working with him, were I to undergo treatments.

But perhaps because Dr. S wasn’t as optimistic as one could hope my family and spouse have urged me to find another doctor for a “second opinion.” These loved ones have even offered to help me pay for said second opinion, for which I am obviously grateful.

It doesn’t make my job of finding the best second-opinion physician any easier, however.

Since my visit with Dr. S last week, I’ve spent hours online looking up doctors, scouring medical message boards and chat rooms for advice from patients in my situation. I’ve looked up physicians who successfully treated patients with my condition, and I’ve actually searched NIH’s Medline site for relevant studies and the physicians who authored them.

What is confusing me and elongating the process of finding my second-opinion physician is all of the testimonials and comments from patients, both negative and positive.

Most top physicians in the specialty I am seeking are part of practices with amazing websites brimming with video testimonials from happy patients. Yet not one potential physician I’ve researched online doesn’t have at least two negative reviews from disgruntled patients.

And at $300 a pop, there are only so many doctors’ opinions my family and I can reasonably afford. The pressure is on me to spend money wisely.

So what will ultimately help me to fine-tune my short list of potential physicians?

Just as my entrance into graduate school was determined by a combination of different factors (undergrad GPA, recommendations, essays, interviews, and professional experience), a combination of different factors will help me find the right doctor. My ideal second-opinion physician has great credentials, is part of a practice with a solid website that includes information on my specific condition (and video testimonials from patients), and has a lot of positive reviews on physician-comparison sites. He or she will also exude the right combination of realism and compassion.

 

Of course, there is the hope that I will find the perfect doctor who will offer radical medical ways to “fix” my situation. Unfortunately, no amount of money or medical accolades can guarantee a patient will be fixed, so to speak.

So in order to find the best physician for a second opinion, I think I’m going to ask my family to give me second opinions about my second-opinion physicians. That way the pressure is off me a little bit, and I can just focus on being optimistic that my situation will change for the better, regardless of which physician I decide to retain.