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Seek second opinions and embrace techology, Stanford physician urges patients

Think of some of the big decisions you make during your lifetime, such as buying a car or a home. You probably wouldn't buy the first car or home you see - such things require careful deliberation and some shopping around. Now imagine that you or someone you love has a serious medical condition that requires treatment; would you immediately accept the treatment options given to you by the first doctor you see?

If you're not sure how to answer that question, this must-read Huffington Post piece by Lawrence "Rusty" Hofmann, MD, chief of interventional radiology at Stanford, is for you.

Hofmann writes his account from the perspective of a father who happens to be a physician, explaining how he relied on his training and the resources available to him to find the best treatment options for his seriously ill son, Grady. With the aid of his colleagues, Hofmann received advice and opinions from medical experts worldwide, and he ultimately obtained a successful treatment for his son's rare liver disease and bone marrow disorder.

His experience also made Hoffman realize how lucky he was to have a network of experts to draw upon in his hour of need. He writes:

While Grady's case was rare, the pain and suffering my family experienced is all too common, especially in the beginning when we were first learning about the various diagnosis and treatment options. Thousands of people have similar experiences, but often with different outcomes.

...

As I learned through Grady's experience, not every doctor is right, and I wanted everyone in the world to eventually be able to have a network or a voice, like mine to ensure the best possible care for all.

In response, Hofmann became an advocate for patients seeking second opinions, encouraging them to empower themselves - starting by embracing technology. Hofmann and co-founder Owen Tripp also created Grand Rounds, a company designed to connect patients to the top 0.1 percent of medical specialists in the world.

"Access to the top physicians and the highest quality care should not be reserved only for the wealthy, those who hit the geographical jackpot, or for medical system insiders," he concludes. "Anyone anywhere should feel empowered to truly own their health issues and treatments--and they can."

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: The road to diagnosis: How to be insistent, persistent and consistent and Living with colorectal cancer: One patient’s story

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