And what do YOU think?
October 15, 2014 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Looking for best practices for getting a second opinion/shopping around for specialty clinics.

My daughter (2 yo) is a medically complex child and I have always struggled with one of her specialty clinics. They have withheld information that would have been useful to have when making a decision regarding surgery, are extremely difficult to get appointments with even during emergency situations, have given me suggestions that do not work despite my explanation of WHY they will not work for my family, used scare tactics that other professionals have rolled their eyes at, are okay with my daughter's condition being in what I consider painful and unproductive state, and have been unresponsive to follow-up questions after appointments when their suggestions have made things worse. They are not terrible people, despite all of this; I think for the most part they are drastically overworked and understaffed. I actually like three of our four-person team, but that one other person is responsible for most of this mess and I can't have her replaced without replacing the entire team. I have heard dissatisfaction from every other parent I have spoken to regarding this clinic, and in fact been told by the doctor in charge of my daughter's overall care that this clinic is "not the best".

So I've bitten the bullet and requested a referral to a different specialty clinic in our area, which I know very little about except that they held a seminar regarding a more cutting-edge treatment for this problem and I am hoping that therefore they will be more open-minded and progressive with treatment, if we decide to switch to them for care.

My question really boils down to how do I do this second opinion thing? I feel like I'm setting myself up to be the Problem Parent if I detail my list of problems with our current clinic, but my daughter's health history has been pretty heavily influenced by the problems this clinic has either caused or failed to fix. It's also entirely possible that I have unrealistic expectations for how much any clinic will be able to do for us at this point, and I'm open (kind of) to hearing that from them, but I don't want to go in there guns blazing and be shot down right away.

How should I present our situation to our best advantage?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are completely entitled to a second opinion and it's responsible of you that you are getting one under these circumstances. The second place won't think you're a problem parent if you don't complain about the previous member of that medical team and just state that you need a second opinion.
Recently I got a second opinion while telling the second doctor how much I liked my first doctor. She knew her and agreed on liking her, and gave a different opinion.
Be confident in your right to use every resource available to you, and don't justify, over-explain or go into tiny details about what the first clinic did wrong. Just go in with the attitude that you are -- rightly -- advocating for your daughter.
posted by third rail at 3:42 PM on October 15, 2014

Okay, I've been through something similar with my bestie, who has ovarian cancer. There have been certain circumstances and situations which have led her to switch some of her (many, many) specialists.

Don't go into the new office and say "Those people at Office A stunk, and here's why..." Instead, go in and ask specific questions about specific things that have occurred or are occurring now, in the context of your daughter's care, her symptoms, or your specific family situation.

Meaning, don't say: Office A was terrible at managing side effect X, leaving my daughter to suffer (pain, discomfort, whatever)!
Instead, say: Daughter has been experiencing (pain, discomfort, whatever) from side effect X. What are your thoughts on that?

Don't say: The communication at Office A was terrible! I could never get ahold of anybody!
Instead, say: How do you handle communication? Is there someone I can email? What about if it's after hours? Do you offer phone consultations? Who will be my primary contact?

Don't say: Office A wouldn't take our family's situation into account, so we could never get Strategy Q to work and they just didn't care!
Instead, say: Our family situation is XYZ. How does that match up with implementing Strategy Q? How do you see Strategy Q working in this situation?

Don't say: Office A was terrible at appointments, even in emergency situations!
Instead, say: How do you handle emergency appointments?

You get the picture. DO GO IN with a list of your questions. That is not weird to them at all. In fact, they frequently like this because it keeps the conversation focused and moving. DO GO IN with another friend or family member who can sit there quietly and take notes so you can concentrate on having a productive conversation with the new team.

Also, yes, it's a totally legit thing that I've seen over and over again during the last 18 months of dealing with full-time medical care for my bestie: some medical offices just don't work. They run poorly, the staff isn't on top of it, or whatever -- they just don't run well. Other offices run really well. It's not for us to diagnose why, perhaps, but you can definitely find well-run offices where your child and family will receive the care and communication you need!

Remember: NO to complaints, YES to questions! You got this! You're being a great parent! Good luck!
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:35 PM on October 15, 2014 [12 favorites]

You advocate for your child. The medical professionals work for you. Don't worry about being a "problem parent." Sure, don't complain, but express your concerns.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:29 PM on October 15, 2014

BlahLaLa's advice is excellent. I know it feels good to vent and you'd probably feel exonerated if you could just gripe about this clinic and maybe get some sympathy or a 'oh yeah, lots of other people have that experience with Office A!' from the new clinic - but that's not what you're paying these people for. You're paying them to provide the best and most detailed medical advice for your child, and for anything medically complex, you have to use your appointment time as efficiently as possible because you probably will need to go very quickly to get through everything you'd like to.

The other office's poor communication, scare tactics, unresponsiveness, scheduling problems etc. probably feel really intertwined into your daughter's story, but if you strive to present the story that focuses on your daughter's illness, treatments, complications etc without getting into your complaints about Office A, hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised when you can then lead into a discussion of your future options that also focuses on your daughter and her future, rather than Office A and the past. Then afterwards go do some stress relieving physical activity to take out your frustrations against Office A.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

BlahLaLa is right on with the questions but you might want to focus on the core set of problems, your daughter's medical problems.

You state what you said here: "my daughter's condition being in what I consider painful and unproductive state" .... "suggestions [rephrase as treatment options] have made things worse".

You want your daughter to get out of pain and to live a productive life. How does this medical team plan to get her there? Focus on the standard of medical care and willingness to meet your treatment goals.

Only consider office manners if and when you are satisfied with the medicine.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:57 PM on October 16, 2014

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