Video: Alternative on costly second opinions

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/27/2004 8:02:18 PM ET 2004-02-28T01:02:18

Lisa Rieger is at home now in Anchorage, Alaska, recovering from surgery to fix shattered bones around her eye socket.

The injuries occurred when she fell earlier this month while cross-country skiing. “I don’t remember my fall but ... my theory is I landed on my ski pole,” she says.

After doing a CAT scan of her injury, her surgeon said he would have to put a titanium plate in her skull.

Lisa says that while she and her husband have confidence in her doctor, she wanted to do her own research about whether this was the best treatment. But, she adds, “it’s not really easy to get a second opinion in Alaska unless you go to another city and see another doctor."

So, like a growing number of consumers, Rieger turned to one of several new independent medical research firms to see what the best treatment was for her injuries. She hooked up with a company in Los Angeles called Doctor Evidence, which is run by Dr. Todd Feinman.

“The reason I started this business was cause I knew one day myself, my friends, my family were going to get sick and we would want to find the most accurate tests and the best treatments," says Feinman.

Providing access to information
Medical libraries have volumes and volumes of information, but the public generally doesn’t have access to it. What the research companies do is condense that information into a simple packet that patients can understand.

Dr. Alan Rosenbach, who practices dermatology in Los Angeles, thinks medical research services will be a major boon to physicians as well as patients. “I see a sea change in the future where physicians will have access to this sort of information even more immediately than it is available currently, and that will help patients a lot,” says Rosenbach.

In the end, Rieger decided to go with her doctor’s advice. “I’d say that getting more information helped me — helped us really narrow it down what our questions were and really gave us more confidence,” she adds.

These services typically charge $200 and up for patients like Rieger to research their medical problems, but she believes it was money well spent.

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