Britons are more likely to seek a second opinion on financial advice (36%) than on their own health, with only 30% of people questioned in a new nationwide survey1 saying they would seek a second medical opinion about their diagnosis or treatment. A fifth of those asked (21%) said that concern about offending or angering their doctor would stop them from asking for a second medical opinion.
The results of the poll have been released to coincide with the UK launch of an online patient health platform – Diagnose.me which connects patients with some of the world’s leading imaging specialists in a range of conditions in the fields of oncology, neurology, cardiology, musculoskeletal, abdominal and paediatric health. Patients can choose from 150 highly specialised experts (radiologists) who provide an expert second opinion on their diagnosis or medical condition on the basis of their X-ray, CT-scan, MRI-scan, PET-CT scan or other imaging results. Diagnose.me specialists provide an online consultation, a detailed report and follow-up communication within 1-4 days.
Since its global launch Diagnose.me specialists have corrected the original diagnosis in 26%2 of patients and second opinion from the service has helped 15%2 of patients to avoid unnecessary treatment. A separate recent study revealed that second medical opinion can reduce the risk of misdiagnosis by up to 90%.3
Traditionally, the British have a reputation for being reticent when it comes to questioning their doctor’s opinion. However there have been a number of high profile cases of medical misdiagnosis including Kylie Minogue who publicly acknowledged that her initial diagnosis was wrong, and more recently Tom Hank’s wife Rita Wilson who had a double mastectomy only after seeking a second opinion. Rita announced last month, “I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health. You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good.”4 In fact, 15% of breast cancer cases are only diagnosed following a second opinion.5
Previously, Kylie Minogue publicly declared, “I have a great respect for the medical profession and the numerous, in fact, countless, people who helped me on my road back to health. I am in the very best of hands now, but it is a fact that my initial diagnosis was that I was, ‘Alright, and had nothing to worry about’.” A few weeks later this was clearly not the case. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is the key for any woman diagnosed with breast cancer.”6
However the survey suggested that a little over half (52%) of Britons are aware that they are entitled to ask a GP or health professional (such as a consultant) for a second opinion about their diagnosis or treatment. The reality is that NHS and private patients can ask for a second opinion on a recent examination, blood test or scan and get access to their medical records. Unfortunately, negotiating the health care system in the UK can often be a difficult, confusing and time-consuming process.
No wonder then, that three quarters (74%) of British adults say that having access to an online portal where they could seek a second medical opinion would be useful to them personally. With the launch of Diagnose.me, people now have the option to select their own specialist, who in many cases will have more specific expertise than their first doctor and will answer in a timely manner.
The survey also highlighted the type of medical conditions that people in the UK would seek a second medical opinion on and explored the reasons for doing so. British adults are most likely to get a second opinion about a medical diagnosis on oncological issues such as tumours, as well as neurological conditions such as damage to the brain, spinal column or nerves (both 65%). Over a third (39%) of those questioned would be likely to get a second opinion on musculoskeletal issues, such as muscle, bone or joint pain. For patients with musculoskeletal problems and injuries, choosing the wrong treatment pathway can significantly set back health, fitness and even sports career plans. For example, several studies have shown that 45% of spine surgeries are found to be unnecessary when reviewed by a second medical expert.7
When asked to give reasons for seeking a second medical opinion, a third of people surveyed (33%) cited “concern that something has been missed on a scan” and one in five (20%) referred to concern that they are on the wrong medication for their condition. Being uncertain of the original diagnosis and seeking peace of mind (both 46%) are the most important reasons to seek a second medical opinion for the British public, closely followed by seeking additional advice on treatment options (43%).
The survey did highlight that Britons actively seek medical information online with two in five (41%) people saying they go online before visiting the GP to research their symptoms, and 40% saying they would do so after a visit to the doctor to look up a diagnosis, treatment or condition.
However, medical commentators stress that even though it can be helpful to go online for research, the trend of “googling” medical information could actually be putting our health at risk, with unreliable sources and conflicting advice.8 Instead people should make sure they use credible and reputable website such as NHS Choices, charities and associations for specific conditions, as well as online services such as Diagnose.me which offer direct online consultations with qualified medical professionals verified and appointed by a Medical Advisory Board.
Erik Ranschaert, Chief Medical Officer and consultant radiologist at Diagnose.me comments, “The survey has flagged up a worrying situation with only a little over half of the British public saying that they are aware that they are entitled to ask a GP or health professional for a second opinion. In fact, two in five Britons do not even know where to go to get a second opinion – and this prevents them from seeking further advice.””
“Added to this, there is a growing trend for patients wanting to take greater control of their health and have a better understanding of the treatment options available. This is very much about working in partnership with health care professionals and making informed choices together.”
“The crucial role that specialist radiologists play in diagnosing and identifying medical problems also often goes unrecognised. We feel strongly that these specialists can offer patients a more detailed understanding of their condition and provide them with the confidence and clarity to make health decisions that can have a huge impact on their life, such as surgery.”
How does it work?
At www.diagnose.me patients can find the right expert for their needs, choosing from the service’s extensive network of specialist radiologists by sub speciality, professional experience, report delivery time, price and other patients’ feedback.
With an average consultation in the form of a written report costing only £100 and delivered within 1-4 days, the service offers UK patients high-quality medical advice and affordable second opinion. This includes a detailed electronic report in easy to understand language, with an analysis of a patient’s scan including annotated images, an overview of the medical situation and recommendations for further examinations or treatment. The service will find, confirm or correct a patient’s diagnosis as well as advising patients on possible treatment options. Afterwards, patients can discuss the results from the report via email with their chosen specialist and are then encouraged to consult their local physician to discuss their second opinion and determine the most suitable treatment plan.
Diagnose.me was founded by entrepreneur Ivan Stefanko and Lukas Alner following personal experiences of traumatic health diagnoses and the difficulty in accessing expert second opinion.
For more information visit www.diagnose.me, follow on Twitter @DiagnoseDotMe or join facebook.com/diagnose.me
For further information, to interview Erik Ranschaert or to talk to a patient case study, please contact Lois Spall or Caroline Beswick at Trinity PR on 020 8112 4905 / 0770 948 7960.
Notes to Editors:
• Diagnose.me has doctors from 30 countries and provides it services to patients from around the world.
• Diagnose.me treats all information as confidential and all scans are anonymised before they are reviewed by a specialist. All communication between patients and doctors are conducted via a secure online account.
• Radiologists specialise in the detection of disease through the use of a variety of investigative techniques. Their work can be vital in finding an accurate and early diagnosis – improving the prospects for treatment – and is fundamental to the management of cancer care and many other serious diseases. They also play an important role in identifying sources of disease and reducing the possible risks of further spread.
1. ComRes interviewed 2,010 GB adults online between 3rd and 4th June 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables can be found at www.comres.co.uk.
2. Diagnose.me statistics, January 2014 – May 2015
3. American Journal of Roentgenology (October 2012); “subspecialty secondary analysis improves patient care, and accuracy increases by 90% when secondary analysis is compared to the original findings.”
5. Breast cancer fact: British Journal of Cancer, Inter-observer variability in mammography screening and effect of type and number of readers on screening outcome
7. Spine surgery fact – several studies state the range of unnecessary surgery between 45 – 60%:
• Epstein NE, Hood DC. “Unnecessary” spinal surgery: A prospective 1-year study of one surgeon’s experience. Surgical Neurology International 2011;2:83. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.82249.
• Gamache FW. The value of “another” opinion for spinal surgery: A prospective 14-month study of one surgeon’s experience. Surgical Neurology International 2012;3(Suppl 5):S350-S354. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.103867.
• Epstein NE. Are recommended spine operations either unnecessary or too complex? Evidence from second opinions. Surgical Neurology International 2013;4(Suppl 5):S353-S358. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.120774.
• Röder C, Müller U, Aebi M. The rationale for a spine registry. European Spine Journal 2006;15(Suppl 1):S52-S56. doi:10.1007/s00586-005-1050-z.