When to Get a Second Opinion on a Medical Diagnosis

General Medical

Tammy George

Female doctor speaking to a female patient about her second opinion on her medical diagnosis.
There’s nothing more valuable than good health, so you want to be sure that you’re in the best possible hands with the doctor you choose. Sometimes that means seeking a second opinion to make sure you have the right diagnosis and treatment plan. Here are some of the reasons why you would consider getting a second opinion.

What is a Second Opinion on a Medical Diagnosis?

A second opinion on a medical diagnosis means you visit another doctor, specialist or health care provider to seek their opinion on a diagnosis and treatments they would recommend. You can then compare the advice provided by the two medical practitioners.

Not Sure if You Need a Second Opinion?

Second opinions are common in Australia and most doctors welcome their patients to take charge of their health and request a second opinion if they have any uncertainties.

There are a number of reasons why you may seek a second opinion, including:

  • Symptoms continue even after treatment

  • You’re concerned that you may have been misdiagnosed

  • Recommended treatment is risky or has serious potential complications

  • You’re seeking more information or another expert opinion

A male doctor speaking to a female patient about her second opinion on her medical diagnosis.l

Potential Benefits of a Second Opinion

Even if your second opinion confirms the first opinion and diagnosis, there are still benefits you can gain from another appointment.

Peace of Mind

If both doctors give you the same advice, you can feel more confident that you have the correct diagnosis and the method of treatment is the best possible option.

Right Opinion Could Save Your Life

Some people choose to get a second opinion when they’re given a clean bill of health from one doctor but feel they have been misdiagnosed. By visiting a second doctor, they’re checking that nothing has been missed. There are many health conditions that have better outcomes if they’re diagnosed and treated early. A misdiagnosis of a serious illness can be life threatening, so a second opinion could therefore be life saving.

Preferred Method of Treatment

Some conditions can be treated in a number of ways. One doctor may recommend surgery followed by treatment, while another doctor may recommend treatments instead of surgery. A second opinion can also give you an alternative treatment option that you may not have been aware of.

A pharmacist holding medicine to treat the medical diagnosis of a customer.

Better Patient-Doctor Relationship

Requesting a second opinion may be due to you seeking a better relationship with your doctor. If you felt there was a communication issue, you weren’t reassured about the first doctor’s experience, or you were recommended another doctor by someone close to you, you may seek a second opinion to change doctors.

More Information

The more time you spend talking to doctors about your condition and treatment options, the more opportunities you have to learn about the condition. Also, one doctor may have heard of a new drug or treatment option that has just become available that another doctor may not be informing patients about.

Many people seek a second opinion because they didn’t understand their doctor’s advice or treatment recommendations. A second doctor may be better at explaining the diagnosis or treatment options than the first. By the second appointment, you’ve had time to do some research and have questions ready, which wasn’t possible at the first appointment. A second appointment can help you make better informed decisions about your healthcare. It’s important that you’re fully informed of the diagnosis and treatment options. 

Quote for Treatment

Not all doctors in the same field charge the same for treatments. The difference in price can be hundreds of dollars depending on the type of treatment you need. By asking for a second opinion, you’re able to gain a second quote which you can use to compare against the first quote. You’re able to take the item numbers from both quotes to HIF to find out how much you can claim.

The Potential Downsides of a Second Opinion

While there are plenty of upsides involved in getting a second opinion, there are a few things to be mindful of when deciding whether to get another opinion.

Medical bills, a calculator and stethoscope on a table.

Cost of Appointment

Some second opinions are free and others may set you back hundreds of dollars. If you want to see another GP for a second opinion, the cost is fairly small or free for those patients who are bulk-billed. However, seeking a second opinion from a specialist can be very different. 

When you’re visiting highly trained medical specialists, the cost of an appointment can be high. You may need to weigh up if the benefits are worth the additional cost of a second appointment. If you’re on a budget, speak to the receptionist to ask the cost before making an appointment.

Cost of Tests

Your second opinion doctor may order expensive tests to understand your condition and make an informed diagnosis. If you have already had the test with the other doctor, request that a copy of the test results be made available for your second opinion appointment.


Some specialists have long waiting times for new patients - sometimes months. While you wait for the second appointment, you may be in pain, have limited mobility or reduced earning capacity. If you went with your first opinion, you may have completed treatment and be on your way to healing in the time it takes to see your second doctor. Weigh up the pros and cons and decide what’s best for you.

A doctor in a GP waiting room checking his lengthy waitlist for the next patient to come forward for the doctor appointment.

Don’t Feel Bad Asking for a Second Opinion

Everyone is responsible for their own health. If you’re not 100% confident in one doctor, it’s your right to ask for a second opinion. You may need to ask your doctor for a referral or a copy of your test results but there’s no need to feel awkward. Second opinions are standard and most doctors have come to expect that a patient may want a second opinion. Remember - every patient has the right to request as many opinions as they like.

What if the Two Opinions are Different?

If you have received two different diagnoses, you may need to ask for clarification or more information. If the opinions were from specialists, you could see your GP to consider the differing opinions and help you decide on your next step. You may feel more confident in one opinion over the other or you may want a third opinion. If the treatment options vary, don’t be afraid to tell the doctor about the other recommendation you’ve received and ask for more information.

How Does HIF’s Second Opinion Service Work? 

Not all second opinions involve finding another doctor and attending another appointment. HIF is one of the few health funds that offers members the convenience of a Second Opinion service via Best Doctors, which is a network of the world’s leading specialists. Eligible HIF members can submit questions to a panel of experienced Australian GPs to gain their expert insight via the Best Doctors’ online medical advice portal. You can submit details of your health concern and copies of medical records and tests to receive a report 15-20 days later with their view on your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Need Health Insurance?
We've got you covered.

Call 1300 134 060  or Get a quote  ›

For those people with mental health concerns, there’s the Mental Health Navigator by Best Doctors. The service offers members virtual access to a cross functional team of psychologists and psychiatrists in Australia who can ensure you have the right diagnosis and treatment plan.

HIF’s Second Opinion service is free to use for any member who has Gold Star Hospital, Silver Plus Hospital and/or Premium Options Extras cover.

What Conditions Do People Usually Seek a Second Opinion For?

Gaining a second opinion often depends on the condition and method of treatment. While you can seek a second opinion for almost any health concern, people seek a second opinion more often for some health concerns than others. The HIF Best Doctors Program lists the top 5 most requested critical conditions as:

  1. Heart conditions

  2. Autoimmune diseases

  3. Digestive system disorders

  4. Cancer

  5. Disorders of the nervous system

A male doctor speaking to a female patient with cancer.

The top 5 non-critical conditions seen by Best Doctors are:

  1. Allergies

  2. Skin conditions

  3. Ear, nose and throat

  4. Paediatrics

  5. Orthopaedics

Second opinions are a valuable tool in ensuring you get the best possible healthcare. Remember, doctors are only human and don’t always get it right. Follow your instincts and get a second opinion if you’re aren’t confident about the first.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

Add a Comment

  1. Enter your comments


Your details