Getting a second opinion was once considered an optional consultation. Yet, over the last couple of years, research has determined that a second opinion is imperative to a patient’s health. According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Roentgenoloy, 26.2 percent of cases that were given a second look by a subspecialist resulted in a different interpretation. In fact, 82 percent of the time, the subspecialist report was more accurate than the original diagnosis. Depending on the specialty, a second opinion can be just as important as the first diagnosis. This is especially true for radiology.
The second opinion service at Johns Hopkins University’s Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology has been around for more than 10 years. According to the director of neuroradiology, David Yousem, MD, MBA, eight to 10 percent of second readings find discrepancies in the initial diagnosis. Similar statistics are true at the University of Portland’s Oregon Health and Science, where diagnostic radiology chair Fergus Coakley, MD, says that seeking a subspecialist opinion results in “actionable change” 10 to 20 percent of the time.
More so, in a 2010 study published in Radiology where 4,534 out of 7,465 neuroradiology cases received a second opinion, 347 (or 7.7 percent) of those patients were given diagnoses “in which clinically important differences were determined,” and the second-opinion examination was determined to be 84 percent of those cases.
However, insurance policies present barriers in making second-opinion consultations the norm. Yousem told the Radiology Society of North America, “In general, insurers aren’t crazy about paying for multiple interpretations of the same study, particularly if those second opinions turn into third or fourth opinions.”