A new Mayo Clinic study reinforces that YES - a person should get a second opinion when dealing with a complex medical condition. The study compared the referring diagnosis to the final diagnosis of 286 patients referred to the Mayo Clinic by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physicians. The researchers found that in only 12 percent of the cases was the diagnosis confirmed. In 21 percent of the cases, the diagnosis was completely changed, while 66 percent of patients received a refined or redefined diagnosis. There were no significant differences between the referring diagnoses made by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physicians.
But one concern I have with the study is - how do we know that the Mayo Clinic diagnosis was the correct one, especially in the 21% of cases they gave a completely different diagnosis (what they called "misdiagnosis")? Hmm..? Bottom line: Yes, a second opinion adds to the medical costs, but it may be helpful. From Science Daily:
Many patients come to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion or diagnosis confirmation before treatment for a complex condition. In a new study, Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 88 percent of those patients go home with a new or refined diagnosis -- changing their care plan and potentially their lives. Conversely, only 12 percent receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct.
Often, because of the unusual nature of the symptoms or complexity of the condition, the physician will recommend a second opinion. Other times, the patient will ask for one.....To determine the extent of diagnostic error, the researchers examined the records of 286 patients referred from primary care providers to Mayo Clinic's General Internal Medicine Division in Rochester over a two-year period (Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010). This group of referrals was previously studied for a related topic. It consisted of all patients referred by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, along with an equal number of randomly selected physician referrals.
The team compared the referring diagnosis to the final diagnosis to determine the level of consistency between the two and, thus, the level of diagnostic error. In only 12 percent of the cases was the diagnosis confirmed. In 21 percent of the cases, the diagnosis was completely changed; and 66 percent of patients received a refined or redefined diagnosis. There were no significant differences between provider types.