We’ve all had patients seek second opinions and receive diagnostic and/or therapeutic recommendations from other practitioners that differ from ours. Or we refer a patient to a specialist who offers one plan, and then the patient sees another specialist who suggests something seemingly totally different. Patients want to know how this can happen. Here’s the story I tell them:

Suppose you had a piece of land and you decided to build a house on it. You go to two different architects and say, “I want a house with four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a family room, a dining room, and a front porch where I can watch the world go by.” Each architect would come up with a different design. Each would meet your needs, but they’d be different.

The same is often true in medicine. There’s seldom just one way to solve a problem, and each doctor will come up with a plan based on her knowledge and experience and what has worked in the past. That doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong. They both can solve the problem, just differently.