The healthcare industry is far from perfect. As providers are human, just like everyone else, human error is a factor, and mistakes can happen in patient care. Even beyond human error, some physicians may misuse healthcare resources, resulting in increased healthcare costs and possibly harming patients. As a patient, it can be disconcerting to put all of your trust in one physician, especially if you are unfamiliar with them.
For this reason, it is essential that you get a second opinion to ensure that you are receiving the best possible care. In the past, second opinions were difficult to come by, particularly when working with niche specialists. Fortunately, telehealth has made connecting with providers easier than ever, allowing patients to easily obtain second opinions and thus verify their treatment and care plans.
The misuse of healthcare entails more than incorrectly using medical resources. In reality, “misuse” includes misuse, overuse, and underuse of any medical resource, including medications, equipment, and any other means of care. The most minor consequence of this malpractice could be increased cost or wasted time, but the most severe could be the death of a patient.
While healthcare misuse is used as an umbrella term for various types of medical errors, misuse itself has a specific definition. Healthcare misuse refers to when a patient does not fully benefit from treatment due to a preventable problem or when a patient is harmed by treatment.
An example of medical misuse would be a physician incorrectly prescribing medication to a patient. It is possible that this case of misuse may only result in an extended treatment period. Still, if the patient is allergic to the drug or it conflicts with another medication, it could result in severe damage or death to the patient.
Another harmful form of medical error is healthcare overuse. Overuse occurs when a drug or treatment is given to a patient without medical justification. This means that a provider will provide care to a patient that is not the most effective option or may be completely unnecessary.
An example of this would be a physician prescribing antibiotics to an ailment that will likely go away on its own or prescribing an option of greater cost or with more side effects. Not only is overuse a waste of medical resources, but it is not cohesive to helping patients recover as quickly as possible. While overuse can occur due to ignorance, on occasion it is done intentionally to drive up medical costs.
Polar to overuse, underuse is when healthcare providers fail to give patients medically necessary care, medication, or treatment or fail to follow proven healthcare practices. Nearly 100,000 Americans die each year due to medical underuse because they do not receive the correct evidence-based care for their condition, especially chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Examples of medical underuse include neglecting to give beta-blocking drugs to a patient having a heart attack or failing to provide female patients with an annual breast cancer screening monogram. The failure to provide necessary drugs and medical treatments contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, many of which could have been prevented.
Second Opinions Can Reduce Misuse
Medical errors such as these are significant issues for both patients and healthcare practices. As a provider, it is your responsibility to give your patients the most efficient and effective means of care. As a patient, you want the best care for you and your loved ones, and it can be challenging to trust your provider knowing that these medical errors are possible. Still, you lack the years of education and experience that it takes to understand treating patients, so you have no choice but to rely on the recommendation of your physician.
While most healthcare providers are qualified and experienced professionals worthy of the patient trust they have earned, many patients choose to seek out second opinions from another physician. Second opinions are beneficial to patients for several reasons as they introduce a set of fresh eyes to review patient records, test results, images, etc.
- Protect yourself against a misdiagnosis.
- Identify errors in patient treatment, thus reducing the risk of medical errors.
- Confirm patient records to ensure that the most effective treatment option is being taken.
- Hold other physicians accountable for their treatment plans.
- Explore better or alternative treatment options.
In seeking a second opinion, you as a patient are advocating for your health and ensuring that you receive the best possible care. Thanks to recent developments in technology, obtaining a second opinion is easier than ever now.
Using Telehealth to Get a Second Opinion
Telehealth platforms encompass a worldwide network of healthcare professionals. Through the platform, physicians and patients can easily connect with one another, making obtaining a second opinion faster and easier than was ever possible.
In the past, to obtain a second opinion, patients had to either do research on their own or get a reference, neither of which guaranteed to connect you with the best possible option. Still, once a provider is chosen, the patient must then mail their medical records or images to the physician, which could take days or weeks.
Following this, the provider must receive and review the records and then contact the patient with their assessment, which could take days or weeks. This process was extremely slow and cumbersome, frustrating patients so much that it deterred many from even bothering to get a second opinion.
Fortunately, today, telehealth has drastically improved how patients receive second opinions. Patients can simply upload all medical records and images to their patient portal, access the network of physicians, and virtually connect with the specialist of their choice. Through telehealth, patients are no longer limited by location to get the care and opinions they need.
Instead, patients can access a provider in any city, country, or continent with ease. Providers that were previously unattainable due to distance and associated limitations are suddenly available in minutes. As a result, patients can easily obtain a second opinion from trusted and renowned specialists, ensuring that they verify their treatment and receive the best possible care.
Thanks to telehealth, patients can receive second opinions from experienced and trustworthy providers in minutes. No longer will patients need to second guess their treatment options or settle on questionable or inefficient care. Telehealth gives the power to patients to advocate for their own health and receive the quality care they deserve. With access to a quick and trustworthy second opinion, patients can rest assured that they are making the best possible decisions for their health.