The value of the second opinion

Earlier this year, researchers published results from the first study to quantify the burden of misdiagnoses in the U.S., which found nearly 800,000 people are permanently disabled or die from diagnostic errors. 

A separate study estimated 370,000 patients may suffer serious harm as a result of misdiagnosis in U.S. emergency departments every year. Such findings underscore the importance of second opinions, which is oftentimes key to ensuring patients get the right treatment, experts told NerdWallet for a report published Nov. 1 in The Mercury News. 

"Second opinions are probably the single fastest way to address diagnostic errors today," said David Newman-Toker, MD, PhD, director of the center for diagnostic excellence at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. 

Beyond confirming the correct diagnosis, experts say second opinions should also focus on making sure patients are getting the best possible treatment for their specific stage of life. 

"How can you incorporate quality-of-life concerns and still get the result you want?" said Caitlin Donovan, senior director at the Patient Advocate Foundation, in the report. "Physicians may differ on that." 

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