How Often Do Second Opinions Differ from Referral Diagnoses?

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Referrals for undifferentiated problems are an essential component of patient care
Referrals for undifferentiated problems are an essential component of patient care

(HealthDay News) — One-fifth of patients who sought a second opinion recently at a single academic medical center had received a different diagnosis from their primary care providers, according to a study published online April 4 in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Monica Van Such, M.B.A., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues conducted a retrospective study at a single academic medical center using a sample of 286 patients referred by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physicians from primary care practices during 2009 and 2010.

The researchers found that 12 percent of the 286 patients who sought a second opinion received the same diagnosis both times, while 66 percent received better defined/refined diagnoses when they sought a second opinion and 21 percent received final diagnoses that were distinctly different from referral diagnoses.

"Referrals to advanced specialty care for undifferentiated problems are an essential component of patient care," the authors write. "Without adequate resources to handle undifferentiated diagnoses, a potential unintended consequence is misdiagnoses resulting in treatment delays and complications leading to more costly treatments."

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