Markus Will, the director of the Swiss company Airdoc Health Travel, became the main guest of the special spring edition of the Russian magazine “Without Borders” devoted to medical tourism. The magazine dedicated two spreads to the interview with our director on the topic of a second medical opinion. Markus Will spoke about the ways to get a second medical opinion, the opportunities of telemedicine and shared generalized stories of anonymous people who received optimal treatment thanks to a medical examination. Some of the Airdoc clients came to Switzerland for surgery but after being examined by a Swiss specialist and getting a second medical opinion received conservative treatment. Some people were offered … observation instead of surgery.
Read these and other stories in Russian by clicking the magazine cover below. We have translated the article into German and English for our English- and German-speaking clients and partners. You can find it by choosing the corresponding language version of our website and clicking the magazine cover.
Good day, Mr. Will. The most important question first: What is a second opinion?
It is an assessment of an already existing diagnosis and an independent suggestion of treatment. Like in Ms. Levina’s case, a patient can get a second opinion from a medical professional during diagnostic testing in a clinic or a hospital. If the existing medical images and blood tests are of good quality, then doctors can even give their opinion online. In a follow-up conversation online (e.g. Via VoIP, Skype, Facetime etc.) the doctor’s opinion is explained and the patient seeking help can get all their questions answered. Of course, a professional interpreter is supporting the conversation, so that both sides understand each other fully.
Why should one seek a second opinion?
Simply said, to be sure about the diagnosis and treatment. Doctors are often strained by long working times and the responsibility. That is why it a second view of a patient’s situation is crucial for minimizing the risk of a wrong medical estimation. Especially for serious treatments. Unfortunately, international, nationwide surveys on this topic do not yet exist. But according to a recent US study of “Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice”, doctor’s diagnoses were wrong in 20 % of all cases. According to the study, the diagnoses of previous physicians were consistent with those of the clinicians who re-examined the patients in just 12% of all cases. Moreover, in 66% of the cases, the doctors were not wrong, but the diagnosis could be clearer. And – as mentioned – a bit more than in one in five cases the second diagnosis differed from the first one, when the patients came to the clinic.
Having this information, in which cases do you particularly recommend a second opinion?
We believe that a second assessment should be sought for each relevant medical diagnosis. Diagnoses are relevant in cases when one is unsure about them, or when the treatment options are complicated, risky, or unpleasant. In particular, it makes sense to get a second opinion from another specialist, if your original doctor suggests a major surgery, if you have been diagnosed with a life- or mobility-threatening condition, or if you have been advised to undergo an expensive and/or long-term therapy. As you saw in the example with Ms. Levina, the surgery proved to be unnecessary. Another patient from Russia, whom we took care of, had a different case: He came to Switzerland to get only a second opinion about the condition of his coronary vessels and then had to stay for immediate surgery. He had two stents installed.
However, many people can not or do not want to travel far to get medical treatment. How can you still benefit from the excellent Swiss healthcare system in this situation?
As I already mentioned, in most cases it is possible to get a second medical opinion online. The acceptance of this form of medical support is growing among both physicians and patients. Good internet connection and a camera even allow to diagnose certain diseases or to assess their course.
Another example from one of our customers. The young woman was previously treated in Switzerland. However, her condition is autoimmune and affects the musculoskeletal system, so it was not easy for her to travel long distances. The solution lies in online consultations: the Swiss doctor assesses the patient’s treatment plans and MRI images made for them by the foreign doctors, and her condition (how she moves and how she speaks) is assessed with the help of a camera. The beautiful thing is that at this moment, the patient is in her apartment thousands of miles away, and the doctor in his office by Lake Zurich. Recently, the Swiss doctor has suggested a therapy change for this patient, and his colleague abroad, who looks after the patient, has also endorsed this change. The result: the young woman from the example feels much safer about her illness. You see – a second opinion does not necessarily mean therapy or diagnosis. A confirmation also serves as a safety feeling for the patient.
What options do I have as a patient with this second medical assessment?
That depends on the actual result of the said assessment. We often advise to discuss the second opinion with your own doctor on site, if you trust him or her. The doctor can then e.g. suggest changes to the offered alternative therapy and support the patient close to their home. A periodic consultation with both doctors is also a conceivable procedure.
The Swiss health care system, according to the WHO, is one of the most advanced health systems in the world and is provides outstanding medical results. For decades, Switzerland has cultivated and expanded its role as a host country for medical patients. Patients – regardless of their cultural background – value Switzerland as a hospitable country with exquisite professional infrastructure. They know that they are looked after by the world’s best physicians. Our Swiss system provides physicians with state-of-the-art infrastructure, thereby contributing to the optimal success of treatment and therapy. It is the interplay of four quality features: first-class medicine, highly qualified medical staff, state-of-the-art infrastructure and the drive to provide the best service to patients. That is why Switzerland is so often considered as the first choice.