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5 ways people benefit from a second medical opinion

March 25, 2021 | 4 min read

Getting an expert medical opinion can make a big difference when a person is considering surgery or facing a new or chronic diagnosis.

To help members get the right care, Accolade Total Care offers Expert Medical Opinion. We use claims history and other data to connect people with best-in-class providers and specialists within a few days to get a second medical opinion to help them understand their diagnosis and treatment options.

Here are five examples when a second opinion is a good idea. 

Back pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit a doctor. Diagnoses can range from muscle strain to herniated discs, but back pain is typically a symptom and not a disease. Studies have shown that treating chronic lower back pain with invasive spinal fusion surgery is rarely more useful in alleviating symptoms than nonsurgical treatments.

Nonsurgical options include physical therapy, exercise and other self-directed treatments to help alleviate pain and improve quality of life. For this reason, many of our members seek an Expert Medical Opinion when a potentially life-changing surgery such as spinal fusion is being considered.


Hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus and sometimes the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes, can be performed in a number of different ways and for a variety of reasons. A hysterectomy is often recommended as treatment for cancer, benign fibroids, endometriosis, uterine prolapse, pelvic adhesions, heavy bleeding, and pain.

There are often many alternatives to hysterectomy, depending on the underlying condition and symptoms. Medication, physical therapy, and localized ablation are all examples of alternatives to hysterectomy.

If a hysterectomy is chosen, it can be performed abdominally, vaginally, or laparoscopically. It’s considered major surgery when the uterus is removed through the abdomen. Vaginal hysterectomy is more minimally invasive, and the uterus is removed through the vagina without any abdominal incisions. A laparoscopic hysterectomy is another less invasive procedure in which a small incision is made in the belly button and a tiny camera is inserted to guide the removal of the uterus.

The type of procedure recommended depends upon the member’s history, health, and current symptoms. Because there are many ways to treat the symptoms women face, a second opinion can provide clarity on which procedure is right for them.

Weight loss (bariatric) surgery

Weight loss surgeries remove or bypass part of the digestive tract. This makes it harder for the body to absorb calories, or the stomach is contracted to slow down digestion. There are also newer procedures that interrupt nerve signals between the stomach and the brain.

Each of these surgeries comes with its own risks and benefits. For example, gastric banding is simpler than some of the other procedures and is potentially reversible. However, people who have this surgery generally experience less dramatic weight loss than other procedures.

People who undergo bariatric surgery generally lose the most weight in the first 12 to 18 months following surgery and often see an improvement in health issues that accompany obesity, such as diabetes. One issue is that people that undergo this surgery don’t absorb nutrients in the same way they did previously. This means the procedures can leave individuals at risk for post-surgical health issues like anemia and osteoporosis.

Identifying if weight loss surgery is necessary depends on a person’s health, body type, long-term needs, and risk factors. Because of this, it’s highly recommended to get a second medical opinion before finalizing a care path.


Cancer tests, treatment, and diagnosis are rapidly changing, so finding a specialist that has worked with an individual’s cancer diagnosis and is up to date with the latest research is important. Specialists have begun recommending treatment based on a person’s type of cancer, genetic makeup, molecular markers, and progression of the disease.

Specialists can also help understand if a cancer has spread and can match members with appropriate treatment options. This helps members find a treatment that correlates with their diagnosis and, in instances where the cancer may be less aggressive, doctors may be able to offer treatments that aren’t as physically taxing and have fewer side effects than radiation and chemotherapy.

Heart disease

Cardiovascular diseases are those that affect the heart and blood vessels. These disorders can occur anywhere in the body, such as blood vessels supplying blood to the heart, brain, arms and legs, or blood clots that travel from one part of the body to another.

Because these diseases are so varied, there can be many symptoms and multiple underlying causes. If a person is dealing with a long-term issue such as coronary artery disease, which is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart and other parts of the body, an Expert Medical Opinion can help people understand what treatment will help them feel better and avert more serious health issues.

When an acute health issue like a heart attack or stroke happens, it’s also important to get advice. Emergencies like a heart attack or stroke should be addressed immediately. After a person has been stabilized, an Expert Medical Opinion can help members understand what treatment options are available to them to find the right care going forward.

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