Getting a Second Opinion on Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sometimes you need the reassurance and perspective a second opinion can provide. Follow these steps.

Stacey Feintuch
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When your rheumatologist gives you a plan for tackling your rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you can easily just follow orders. And if you’ve had a long, trusting relationship with your doctor—and your rheumatoid arthritis has been well controlled—that may be just fine. But what if you’re consistently having trouble? Or a new regimen isn’t feeling quite right? Or you’re beginning to question the treatment advice you’re getting?

Well, then, it may be time to seek a second opinion. Don’t worry that your rheumatologist will be offended. Healthcare providers often encourage second and even third opinions—in fact, it’s an important sign of a good physician. After all, they know that consulting with another doctor can help you sort through your treatment options, answer questions and simply shed new light on how rheumatoid arthritis is affecting you.

You may walk away with a renewed sense of confidence in your existing rheumatologist and in the choices you’re making—or you may decide it’s time for a change.

When to get a second opinion
You may want one if . . .

  • You’re uncertain about your diagnosis
  • You’re uncertain about your treatment
  • You want to learn your options and see whether the treatment or procedure is necessary
  • Your insurance company requires a second opinion before covering your treatment
  • Your current doctor has recommended you undergo a risky procedure

How to find a second opinion healthcare provider
Your current doctor may recommend a physician or two, but don’t feel obligated to follow the suggestion. Chances are, the physician will be a friend or colleague within the practice—and that means you might not get an objective opinion. You can get names of a second-opinion healthcare provider from:

  • Family or friends who’ve been treated for the same condition
  • Your insurance company (try their website)
  • Your local hospital (check the list of specialists on the hospital website)
  • Doctor-rating sites

Your visit
Be sure that the second-opinion doctor accepts new patients and your insurance plan. Get a referral from the first doctor if you need one, and have all your records sent to the second-opinion doctor before your visit.

Choosing between doctor 1 and doctor 2
After you have everything you need from Doctor 2, you’ll have to decide which doctor’s advice to take.

If both rheumatologists agree on your treatment, think about the one you’d prefer to work with. Ask yourself what plan makes the most sense, involves the least risk and focuses on the issues that are most important to you. Remember that the nicer doctor, the one who went to a better school or the one who’s more attractive isn’t always right for you and doesn’t make a better healthcare provider.

But if the two disagree on your care, consider the plan that focuses on the issues most important to you, involves the fewest risks and makes the most sense.

If the two doctors’ opinions differ vastly, think about getting a third opinion. The third opinion will likely be similar to either Doctor 1 or Doctor 2, which will help you reach a decision.

Most important, go with your gut. Sometimes, following your intuition is the best way to help you reach a conclusion.

April 2013