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November 6th, 2008
11:44 AM ET

Five steps to getting a second opinion online

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/HEALTH/11/06/ep.online.second.opinions/art.online.second.opinion.jpg]
Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

In August, just days before her daughter was to start her sophomore year of college, Dr. Lucy Sauer faced a troubling choice: Should her daughter have a device surgically implanted in her chest to control her heart rhythm?

One doctor, a cardiologist, told Sauer that her daughter, Hannah Remmel, "absolutely" needed a defibrillator. He said an MRI of Remmel's heart showed a rare congenital deformity, and he feared that she might die without the device.

But Remmel's primary care physician wasn't so sure. He doubted Remmel even had the deformity. Sauer, a family physician in Little Rock, Arkansas, needed clarity.

"I didn't want to drag Hannah home from her college in Florida to get a second opinion here. But I also didn't know any doctors in Florida she could go to," Sauer says. "So I went online."

Two weeks and $565 later, Sauer had her answer from the Cleveland Clinic's online second opinion service: Her daughter's heart was just fine. She had no deformity and no need for heart surgery.

Remmel never actually saw Cleveland Clinic doctors; they examined her MRI images and test results from the Little Rock cardiologists.

"I was so relieved," Sauer says. "It was fabulous."

"I'm really impressed with these services," says Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. "They provide access to some of the most knowledgeable specialty physicians in the world."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Medical News
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. michelle.ro

    But nobody told us how the girl was feeling...maybe she was stressed of to many exams, to many smoke around her, or just she felt strange cuz was in love...a heart issue too...
    But technology means evolution. Even this blog could mean that we have improved ourself.Next level!

    November 6, 2008 at 10:03 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I do a lot on-line but I'm not sure I would do this unless my primary physician thought it was ok. Maybe this will be the next wave of the internet age but I think I'll let others try it out first to see how well it works before I try it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 6, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Gayle Hunter

    Hi Anderson, I'm sorry about the death of your brother.HIS SPIRIT WAS BROKE IS WHY HE DID THAT.Anyway as for Obama winning,the religious right believes as President Bush does,that God selects our leader.Could you please remind them of that?=God also selected Obama.Anyway I believe God's heart has been broken all along also.But now he knows it..So the trickle down effect is probably what is going on now.=more love,,joy,and peace to all! Love Gayle

    November 6, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  4. Heather,ca

    I have heard of Telemedicine that is covered by some insurance cos. What about Skype where you can talk and see the person via webcam and its free. The doctor charges the same for the time. This definately brings up the very important subject of modernizing access to medicine. We have this amazing technology yet we are still far behind. I cant even scan my medical records and forms for a doctor. I have to make copies at home and physically bring them with me and know that there is no way that a new doctor has had the time needed to really review them.The AMA and the laws and the insurance companies need to catch up with technology. I dont even own a fax machine anymore. I scan and email everything!

    November 6, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  5. Dana, Michigan

    I truly believe that portable medical services of any kind can reduce travel, in office visits, and other services that are expensive, must find a way to reduce. Portable or mobile services that can give a base line or read diagnostic test, without the patient in office can be very beneficial to save time, stress, and money. With the overwhelming cost still increasing this will be a way in the future in the medical field and a great asset.

    November 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  6. ralph

    I'm not sure the internet can do anything specific safely.

    November 6, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  7. Johnna

    How can you trust someone who's never seen you? You don't know their credentials. How can you know which questions are the right questions to ask? Why would you go to a doctor who doesn't want to see you in person? Seems like a pretty big gamble to me.

    November 6, 2008 at 12:32 pm |
  8. Diana Bignell

    Foreign policy experience...pfff.....I can see Russia from here!!!!

    November 6, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  9. Cindy

    OK...this is getting a bit crazy. I just would not ever go online and take what anyone says as the gospel. I know that they are doctors but I do think they should have seen the girl in person, checked her out themselves and made a decision. I just don't see the online thing being a smart idea, especially in a life or death situation.

    Cindy...Ga.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:49 am |