Second medical opinions —whether between doctors or between patient and doctor— are very important when it is necessary to confirm a diagnosis or obtain advice on the best possible treatment for a specific clinical case.
Requests for second opinions are especially relevant when clinical cases are complicated or when treating a rare disease with limited therapeutic options.
Doctors and patients alike have been seeking second opinions from other medical experts for decades —it is a common practice— although the means for these consultations have modernized over time.
Today, technological advances, such as the Internet or the development of web applications, make it possible to ask for second opinions quickly and securely from clinical experts located anywhere in the world, which enables patients to gain access to the best specialists regardless of their location.
This allows for greater equity in healthcare, as all patients —no matter where they are— should have access to the best available medical services.
Without a doubt, access to expert second medical opinions is of great value and can make a substantial difference in the management of a serious, life-threatening clinical case.
As an example, this is especially true in oncology, when treating cancer patients with high-risk, aggressive, or rare tumors, which requires the opinion of highly specialized medical oncologists —and other specialists— (known as “key opinion leaders”).
Given the importance of this type of consultation, it is necessary to have technological tools specifically designed for this purpose, which facilitate the process of requesting a second medical opinion as much as possible.
In the following paragraphs, we will explain how a web-based second opinion platform can ease consultations —either between medical professionals or from a patient to a doctor— including the sharing of clinical data, reports, and even images (in DICOM format in the case of radiological images).
Requesting a Second Opinion Between Doctors
First of all, we will consider the request for a second opinion between medical specialists.
We can consider the scenario of a medical oncologist dealing with a highly complex cancer case: a rare high-grade tumor with few therapeutic options available.
In cases like this, the oncologist treating the patient usually needs diagnostic confirmation of the tumor because —as it is a rare cancer— the diagnosis of a single pathologist can be inaccurate.
When dealing with rare histologies, a diagnostic review by an expert pathologist —located in an oncology referral center— is extremely valuable (it is not possible to offer adequate treatment if the tumor is not correctly diagnosed).
In addition, the case may be of such complexity that the treating oncologist may need to get the views of other specialists at the referral center, such as the medical oncologist, the radiologist, and the surgeon.
In fact, many rare tumors —a good example would be sarcomas, which are lethal musculoskeletal tumors— always require a multidisciplinary approach that includes review of the case in a committee of experts from different medical disciplines.
Requesting a Second Opinion from Patient to Doctor
A second scenario occurs when patients themselves decide to request a second opinion from an expert doctor.
In this case it is not a doctor who contacts another doctor, but the patient herself or himself who contacts a medical specialist located in another city or country.
Direct patient access to key opinion leaders (KoLs) —taking oncology as an example again— is a growing practice globally, as the current trend is for the patient —helped by their relatives— to take the initiative in finding the best treatment for their illness.
Information Needed in a Second Opinion Request
In the two scenarios described above —doctor-to-doctor consultation and patient-to-doctor consultation— the same need arises: to be able to send clinical case information from one party to the other, in an easy, fast, and secure manner.
What information is needed to request a second medical opinion? Generally, the person making the consultation needs to send the receiving party several things, including a description of the clinical case, medical reports —attached documents— and on many occasions also medical images.
Traditionally, physicians and patients submitting requests for second opinions have sent the documents and images mentioned above through inefficient manual methods, such as postal mail or physical courier deliveries.
At present, this information is sent by email, but in an insecure way and without the possibility of sharing large radiological images (in their original format, radiological studies are too heavy to be sent by email).
Second Medical Opinion Platform with Integrated DICOM Viewer
To meet the technical needs of second opinion activities, Zlynger has developed a second medical opinion web platform that integrates a DICOM radiological imaging viewer.
This web application offers a simple and secure environment for communication between healthcare professionals and between patient and doctor, thus enabling rapid sharing of clinical cases.
Zlynger’s software not only facilitates the sending of a clinical case description, but also allows the attachment of documents and medical reports in the most common formats (Word, PDF, etc.).
Furthermore, Zlynger’s second opinion tool integrates a DICOM imaging viewer to share and view —through a web browser— X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, among other types of medical images.
Requests for second medical opinions are essential to confirm a doubtful diagnosis or to recommend the best treatment for a complex clinical case.
Even though requests for second opinions are very common activities nowadays, there is frequently a lack of a practical and secure technological environment available to ease the transmission of all the information needed.
Zlynger offers an innovative second opinion platform which simplifies the submission of a clinical case via the Internet, including attached documents and medical images.
Our software greatly facilitates the consultation process, for both doctors and patients, so that the latter can get the second opinion they need as quickly as possible in a safe way.