Despite what one might wish, medical professionals can and do make mistakes. This exposes patients to the possibility of harm depending on the nature of the mistake, making it important that people take a proactive role in their health care. One thing that patients can and should do in some situations is to seek a second medical opinion.

The results of one study conducted by the Mayo Clinic support the benefits of getting a second opinion to confirm or get additional clarity on a diagnosis. Of the study participants who did this, only 12% had their original diagnosis confirmed. The remaining 88% were given a refined or completely new diagnosis. Of the new diagnosis, a whopping 21% were rated to be distinctly different than the original diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society indicates there are several circumstances that logically warrant a person getting a different medical opinion, including when they have been given a very serious diagnosis, or have been recommended to undergo experimental, invasive or risky treatment protocols. A persona may also benefit from talking to another doctor if they have any communication issues with their first doctor. A second medical opinion may confirm a diagnosis but offer someone alternative options for treatment.

Before seeing a second provider, patients should compile all records from office visits, lab or other test results, hospital stays and more. This will ensure both providers have the same information so that the opinions are appropriately able to be compared. A first doctor who is ethical should be more than happy to facilitate sharing records with a new provider.