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How a second opinion can save not just your wallet, but your life

If a doctor has recently diagnosed you with a serious condition or illness, you may be feeling any of a variety of emotions:  fear, worry, trepidation, anxiety and more. However, before you become too overwhelmed or begin any expensive and intrusive treatments, you may want to consider seeking a second opinion.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic has analyzed the importance of seeking an independent second diagnosis. While researchers have performed numerous other studies regarding the frequent inaccuracy of initial diagnoses and the value of seeking a second opinion, this latest study is unique in that it examined more complete patient data and included an in-person examination. The study's findings, while potentially alarming, may shed some light on the importance of a second opinion and may offer hope for both your health and your finances.

Study findings

Per Mayo Clinic findings, when your doctor diagnoses you with a complicated syndrome, condition or disease, it's advisable to seek a second opinion from an independent medical source. This study determined that generally, patients who sought a second diagnosis at an academic medical center close to them often received a refined or even totally new and different diagnosis. In fact, in situations like this at the Mayo Clinic:

  • Doctors gave a totally different diagnosis in 21 percent of cases.
  • Doctors refined or extended the diagnosis in 66 percent of cases.
  • The original diagnosis remained unaltered in only 13 percent of cases.

While seeking a second opinion obviously means additional medical bills initially, it can potentially prevent the very costly -- in terms of health, money and even life -- consequences that otherwise may result from a misdiagnosis.

What this means for you

A 2016 study determined medical errors to be the third leading cause of death. That's because the term "medical errors" refers not only to mistakes like wrong-site surgery, but also to missed, delayed or completely incorrect diagnoses, which in turn often lead to dangerous and unnecessary surgeries or delays in potentially life-saving treatments. The hope is that reducing these inaccurate or faulty diagnoses will translate into reduced mortality from medical mistakes. Essentially, the study determined that far too frequently, initial diagnoses are incomplete or simply wrong.

The message seems clear: Seeking a second opinion to either confirm or refute an initial serious diagnosis may save you time, money and even your well-being later. If, however, you were one of the unfortunate individuals for whom this news comes too late, there is still hope. For patients who suffered significant injury due to an inaccurate diagnosis or an Indianapolis doctor's egregious delay in correctly diagnosing your serious medical condition, there are resources available that can help you pursue justice and compensation.

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