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Virtual second opinions remove barriers to care, offer hope to those with nowhere else to turn

virtual medicine
Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 21, 2022

A serious medical diagnosis can be life-changing. That’s why many people want another perspective. Second opinions can be expensive, however, and may require travel.

Now, virtual second opinions are offering a lifeline for people, like Dan Walden.

Active for most of his life, Walden knew something was off when he could no longer keep up with his grandkids. He was experiencing heart rhythm issues.

“I finally got to where they did an MRI on my heart,” said Walden.

Walden’s MRI and bloodwork pointed to a rare disease called, AL amyloidosis. The disease can be deadly in months without treatment. However, all of Walden’s biopsies were negative, so doctors in his home state of Georgia couldn't diagnose him. That’s when he reached outside of Georgia to the Clinic by Cleveland Clinic for a second opinion, and he did it virtually.

Walden says that decision saved his life.

“Literally, within just two weeks of engaging the Cleveland Clinic, they responded to me with a positive diagnosis,” said Walden.

Now, he's getting the medical attention he needs.

More people are turning to virtual technologies for quicker access to life-saving treatment. The virtual second opinion market is expected to be worth more than $7 billion by 2024, according to Research Kraft. That's up from roughly $3 billion a few years ago.

However, not everyone has the power to access a second opinion. Getting one of the nation's top doctors to speak with you on Zoom can come at a pretty high cost.

“They do require payment, sometimes out of pocket, sometimes by insurance,” said Howard Kleckner, MD, medical director at thesecondopinion.

That's where Dr. Kleckner is making a difference. He and his team at thesecondopinion are removing all barriers to care. Most of the physicians on staff are retired but still want to practice medicine. They're also willing to do it without a paycheck.

“We have over 70 doctors who volunteer their time,” said Kleckner.

Everything is done via Zoom. An expert panel meets directly with patients and their families to review their case and go over treatment options. Kleckner said it's not about finding other doctors' mistakes. In fact, they rarely do. He said their mission is much more than that.

“They need reassurance that they are doing the right thing and that’s what we can provide, the comfort and understanding that they need to go through their treatment,” said Kleckner.

Currently, thesecondopinion only offers free virtual second opinions to California residents. They hope to see the effort expanded in other states.

“It’s a very worthwhile service that we can provide the community, particularly those people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means or understanding to obtain additional information,” Kleckner said.

As for Dan Walden, he's thankful for his second chance and the time he gets to spend with his grandkids.

“It's important for me to be active enough that I can be a good granddad,” Walden said.