Using Second Medical Opinion (SMO) services accessed via healthcare, group risk and other insurance schemes, demonstrates a duty of care to the employee and their family, and is highly valued by staff according to RedArc nurses.
According to employee referral data from RedArc Nurses over a five-year period:
- One in ten (10 per cent) of SMO cases is for a child.
- Mental health is the most common health condition referred for an SMO in under-18s (35 per cent of SMOs for under 18s).
- In adults, orthopaedic conditions (28 per cent) are the most common health concern for which an SMO is sought. Mental health (9 per cent) is next most common.
19 per cent change in diagnosis
Following the SMO, 19 per cent saw a change in diagnosis, and therefore the initial diagnosis was confirmed in over eighty per cent of cases. Of those whose diagnosis remained the same, nearly half, 46%, recommended a change in medication or treatment.
It can be particularly worrying for employees dealing with the ill-health of a child, and having access to an SMO can be a great support, either providing peace of mind that the original diagnosis was correct, options for treatment or medication, or a change in diagnosis. Equally important is that the family is supported throughout the process and beyond.
As mental health moves up the corporate agenda, it is expected that there would be an increase in referrals for support. However, from these stats, it’s clear that offering access to an SMO is also particularly valuable in cases of mental health. Those dealing with a mental health issue need very specific support to help navigate an SMO and cope with the long-term consequences.
Worries wider than the condition
Being able to offer employees and their families the opportunity to fully understand their condition and the options for treating it is hugely valued. However, once the treatment is underway, employees then tend to be faced with a whole range of other questions about their future, their employment and their finances, not to mention the toll on individuals and families emotionally. So it’s important that the clinical diagnosis can be partnered with additional medical and emotional support from a health professional who can provide pre- and post-consultation advice and long-term support.
Having a professional third party on hand to listen and provide guidance on these non-core medical matters, including offering tailored mental health support, can be crucial in ensuring the person has a positive state of mind during preparation for the appointment, as well as coming to terms with the outcome, treatment options and long-term impact. And this is just as important for both the patient and their family or carer.
It is not uncommon for the individual to also need further tests – privately or via the NHS – and a health professional can help navigate such routes and join up the dots. It’s also important they have the knowledge to suggest additional therapies to compliment a medical diagnosis to help with side-effects of treatment, such as acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, dietician, hypnotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen.
Some employers choose to offer SMO as a separate service and others include it within a scheme alongside other medical support within a group insurance product or membership package, for example. Similarly, some allow the service to be accessed on an ongoing basis, and for others it is available at point of claim.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc commented: “Of course, anyone can ask for a second medical opinion via the NHS but this could take time to arrange which may ultimately delay treatment. In addition, some people feel awkward asking one NHS consultant to review the advice of another and so may not pursue an SMO when it might be in their best interests to do so.
“Having concerns about the health of a child can be more distracting for an adult employee than worrying about their own medical issues and so it stands to reason that increasing numbers of employers are including a family-wide second medical opinion service within their benefits programme. It allows staff to have peace of mind that whatever serious medical problems arise for themselves or their loved ones, they can quickly access a face-to-face medical opinion from a consultant specialist in the UK.”