The right for an opinion: why Ukrainian medicine needs the practice of independent expertise

Updated
2021-09-28

Anna Zharova, Israel-Ukraine Alliance CEO


Over the last year and a half, the coronavirus has been a major healthcare issue capturing everyone’s attention. However, other diseases have not disappeared and while all the resources are focused on a single sphere, problems in the industry persist. And the efficiency of diagnosis remains one of the most important of them around the world.


The further it is left in the shadows, the deeper it gets, and more and more people risk not getting the treatment they need in time.


There is a solution, however, that doesn't require significant investment. It's the development of a so-called “second opinion”.


In Search for Trust


Basic prerequisite for a successful recovery is being confident in the specialist prescribing the treatment. Especially in situations where it is necessary to act quickly.


For example, every year more and more Ukrainians face cancer. In 2020, the country ranked second in Europe in cancer incidence, and is among 50 countries with the highest cancer mortality.


Despite all the important campaigns that say that cancer is not a death sentence, patients still have to go this difficult path only with their family and loved ones. And even if a good doctor can be found, his or her conclusions should be checked with independent doctors.


Oncology is not unique here. This is also applicable to cardiology, surgery, and others.


In world practice, there is a solution for this called “second opinion”: a consultation with an expert who can check the quality of diagnosis and correctness of treatment.


Such approach allows, on the one hand, not to hurry as sometimes extra actions can only complicate everything, but on the other hand, it helps to avoid unnecessary delay.


“Second opinion” makes it possible to not only undergo all the tests all over again, but to effectively use the data that patients already have. This results in significant savings in time and money.


World Practice


It is no coincidence that the idea of “second opinion” is most prevalent in medically advanced countries such as Israel or Germany. Even there, where there are enough experts and infrastructure, people understand that a single conclusion for such an important issue like picking the right treatment is not enough. “Second opinion” is most often sought:

  • when a questionable diagnosis has been made, and the patient or family members want to verify its correctness,
  • to clarify the stage and extent of cancer
  • to clarify is the surgical intervention is needed
  • to prescribe further treatment protocols or verify the selected chemotherapy protocol
  • to plan further therapeutic treatment with expensive drugs.


In Israel, the option of choosing a doctor or doctors for the second opinion is even included in the list of medical services provided by the state. This speaks to the prevalence of this practice.


Citizens of Ukraine can also take advantage of the service, and some are already turning to it. I personally came across patients that had their diagnosis adjusted or found out that they didn’t need treatment at all following the second opinion.


In this respect the story of a 37-year-old patient diagnosed with cervical cancer is quite illustrative. She requested a second opinion and traveled to Israel for further examinations. At that time, she had already been scheduled for an operation to remove the organ in Ukraine.


Thanks to modern technology and the expertise of doctors in Israel, after lengthy biopsy checks no cancer was found, and the preliminary diagnosis was not confirmed. The continuation of this story is even more amazing; it was in Israel where the patient underwent the procedure of artificial insemination and is preparing to become a mother.


I would like to cite here Sevil Alayeva, strategic partnership manager of the International Medicine Dept. at Rabin Medical Center:


"Our state is at the forefront of oncology treatment. We have all the major innovations here and more than half of patients who come in Israel for cancer treatment receive a different diagnosis after the examination that changes the stage or clinical picture of the disease. Correct diagnosis allows choosing the best treatment plan for each patient”.


Additionally, it is important to know that “second opinion” is usually available both directly in the doctor's office and remotely. This means that in many situations you do not even have to go to the doctor, but instead send them your test results and get a high-quality consultation.


Development of Second Opinion in Ukraine


The national health care system has coped quite well with the emergency caused by coronavirus.


Overall, however, Ukraine ranks 79th among 100 countries in medical services quality. If we add to this the disappointing statistics for most diseases, the situation will look quite critical.


Of course, introducing “second opinion” services will not solve all of Ukraine’s medical issues at once, but it is certainly a practice that should be adopted and promoted.


Even more so because such solutions do not require significant financial investments, but rather create conditions for improving the competence of doctors and help patients feel more confident.


Source: Anna Zharova's column in 'Life.pravda.com.ua'

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