Second Opinions in Psychiatry: A Review

Sabina C. Heuss, Bruce J. Schwartz, Andres R. Schneeberger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although second opinions are rather restricted to the surgical disciplines, they have become more and more important to the health system in the last 20 years. The demand has been triggered by rising health costs and the economization of the field. The Internet has also made a considerable contribution to the demand for patient-initiated second opinions. Given these developments, it is surprising that second opinions have not become more important in the field of psychiatry. This article highlights the special situation of second opinions in psychiatry, discusses possible barriers to the adoption of second opinions in psychiatry, and the potential for greater use of second opinions in this field.Objective:In psychiatry, second opinions have been neglected by the typical drivers of innovations in health care, including insurers and other commercial drivers as well as psychiatrists and patients themselves. This review identifies current barriers to widespread adoption of second opinions in psychiatric practice, discusses the benefits of second opinions that have been demonstrated in other disciplines, and outlines the potential gains to be realized through use of second opinions in psychiatry.Methods:Literature in the area was reviewed through a search of the main medical databases. This literature review was supported by in-depth interviews with health care personnel and insurers.Conclusions:Second opinions are rarely obtained in psychiatry and there is little literature on this subject. The stigmatization of psychiatric disorders and patients and the uniqueness of the patient-doctor relationship in psychiatry, especially in psychotherapeutic care, may pose considerable obstacles to the use of second opinions in this field. In addition, more stakeholders, such as social workers, government agencies and regulators, health care and disability insurers, and social security agencies, are involved in the mental health compared with the somatic health sector, which may make it more difficult to achieve a coordinated approach in psychiatric care. However, we have found no convincingly good reason why second opinions have not been at least discussed in psychiatry. Psychiatry could benefit from ongoing discussions concerning the outcomes of second opinions in other medical disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-442
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of psychiatric practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Europe
  • Internet
  • United States
  • literature review
  • medical quality
  • patient-initiated second opinions
  • psychiatry
  • second opinions
  • stigmatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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