“Still a lot to do!”
Neuruppin/Potsdam, 12 April 2022
After more than 3 years of intensive studies on the issue of second medical opinions, health services researchers at the Brandenburg Medical School (MHB) presented preliminary findings from the project ZWEIT at a symposium and pointed out shortcomings in the implementation of the second opinion guideline.
The former MHB president Prof. Edmund Neugebauer manages the project and explains the background as follows: “With needs-based and patient-oriented health care in mind, the Federal Joint Committee G-BA issued a guideline to establish the legal entitlement to a second medical opinion. Prior to plannable surgery, patients should have the option of a second independent medical opinion. The aim is to avoid unnecessary surgery, increase patients’ participation in decision-making and improve patient satisfaction. After years of research, we are now proud to present preliminary results on the evaluation of second opinion procedures at this symposium, thanks to dedicated teams of researchers at the Brandenburg Medical School and Witten/Herdecke University. We are grateful to our partners for their excellent collaboration: AOK Nordost, Medexo GmbH and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. Research depends on exchange, and regional networks are essential in health services research.”
Research assistants Dunja Bruch and Susann May are pleased with, and in some respects surprised by, the results: “The key focus in this project is on the perspective of patients and physicians. We wanted to see to which extent the current situation regarding second opinions corresponds or does not correspond to users’ needs. Large parts of the results actually came as a surprise. Implementing the guideline in practice remains difficult, and information deficits exist among the general public on second medical opinions. Our findings will help to considerably improve the current situation on an evidence basis.”
Prof. Neugebauer is also convinced that much remains to be done: “The legal claim of a patient to seek a second independent medical opinion prior to surgery is an important and appropriate step. But our studies have shown that the pertinent procedure in its current form does not sufficiently correspond to patients’ needs and there is still a great deal to be done.”
For Michael Zaske, Head of Section at the Health Ministry, the findings mark a first important move to improve the guideline: “The ZWEIT project financed by the Innovation Fund contributes much to the advancement of the second opinion procedure. This is essential for patients to make informed therapy decisions. The inclusion of attending physicians means that the guideline can be assessed for applicability and recommendations can be derived for the practice of health care.”
Approximately 70 participants followed the symposium either on site or via virtual attendance.
Prof. Edmund Neugebauer
ZWEIT project manager and Past President MHB