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.
These findings were published online today in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The research team was led by James Naessens, Sc.D., a health care policy researcher at Mayo Clinic.
When people are sick, they look to their doctor to find solutions. However, physicians don’t always have the answers. 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.
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This second opinion could lead to quicker access to lifesaving treatment or stopping unnecessary treatments. And a second opinion may reduce stress in a patient’s extended family, when they learn the new diagnosis does not carry dire genetic implications. These scenarios can result from diagnostic error.
With second opinions, in 21% of the cases, the diagnosis was completely changed; and 66% of patients received a refined or redefined diagnosis. There were no significant differences between provider types.
“Effective and efficient treatment depends on the right diagnosis,” says Dr. Naessens. “Knowing that more than 1 out of every 5 referral patients may be completely [and] incorrectly diagnosed is troubling — not only because of the safety risks for these patients prior to correct diagnosis, but also because of the patients we assume are not being referred at all.”