“I’ve been doing this kind of work for 32 years,” says hematologist oncologist Mariette Austin, MD, PhD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology–Hecktown Oaks. “Over my career I’ve been something of a jack of all trades regarding cancer. I will tell patients with conditions with which I have little experience that it’s time for outside input, and I’ll recommend a colleague who lives, eats and breathes the cancer that person has. We’ll work in partnership for that patient’s benefit.”
For primary care physicians such as Natasha Carlson, MD, MPH, with LVPG Family Medicine–Hecktown Oaks, second opinions usually are a regular occurrence. Generally, primary care physicians will refer patients with more serious conditions to specialists. But even lesser conditions might call for another opinion.
“If a diagnosis or treatment gets complicated as a case moves along, of course we’d be seeking out another opinion,” Carlson says. “Medicine overall has become much more complex. There are so many providers with different experiences, different training. We have a duty to seek out the best possible outcome for a patient, and certainly that could involve another voice.”
In Austin’s experience, she has seen far more patients coming to her for a second opinion than those seeking a medical opinion other than hers. But if a patient would seem uncertain with what she recommends, she wouldn’t hesitate to suggest they seek recommendations from another provider.
How do I get a second opinion?
At Lehigh Valley Health Network, seeking a second opinion is as easy as submitting an online form or calling one of our specialty practices. Once you have an appointment scheduled, you will need to provide information about your current diagnosis and treatment. If you have a medical record with LVHN, your provider for a second opinion will be able to review test results and diagnostic information through our electronic medical record system. If you are coming from another health system, you can request medical records and other information be provided for the second opinion.
Should a patient decide to transfer care into or out of another practice, it’s usually a smooth procedure involving the transfer of medical records and perhaps a conversation between physicians.
“If the patient isn’t satisfied, you would do whatever you can to help them,” Carlson says. “In my case, a big part of primary care is understanding your patients very well. Their needs are what matters.”