Attitudes towards second opinion services in cancer care: a nationwide survey of oncologists in Korea

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Second opinion is a common phenomenon in many health systems, especially in the care of patients with cancer. However, it is not clear whether second opinion seeking should be promoted or discouraged and how second opinion services and policies can be better formalized to maximize the benefits and minimize the disadvantages.


A nationwide survey was conducted with a representative sample of 678 physicians involved in cancer care (75.5% participation rate) recruited in 13 cancer centres.


Most physicians involved with cancer care perceived patients' second opinion seeking as a legitimate right (96.0%) and they acknowledged the need for second opinion services under certain conditions (98.2%). Many believed that second opinions can enhance patient satisfaction (77.3%) and quality of care (74.3%), but they also had concerns about increase in healthcare and societal costs (91.3%) and concentration in a high-volume centre (90.7%). While the majority agreed with the involvement of the first opinion physicians in the second opinion services (69.5%), there were mixed opinions regarding the desirability of remote (teleconsultation) second opinion services (49.0%) and coverage by national health insurance (51.9%).


Physicians were generally positive to second opinion services and expected positive consequences in terms of patient satisfaction and quality of care. However, they had concerns about the consequences regarding cost and equity, and disagreements were observed regarding the way to improve second opinion services. The physicians' opinions revealed in our study will be helpful in developing clearer guidelines used to maximize the benefits of second opinion services.

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