Patient-initiated second medical consultations - Patient characteristics and motivating factors, impact on care and satisfaction: A systematic review

Geva Greenfield, Liora Shmueli, Amy Harvey, Harumi Quezada-Yamamoto, Nadav Davidovitch, Joseph S. Pliskin, Salman Rawaf, Azeem Majeed, Benedict Hayhoe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives To review the characteristics and motivations of patients seeking second opinions, and the impact of such opinions on patient management, satisfaction and cost effectiveness. Data sources Embase, Medline, PsycINFO and Health Management Information Consortium (HMIC) databases. Study design A systematic literature search was performed for terms related to second opinion and patient characteristics. Study quality was assessed using the National Institutes of Health Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies. Data collection/extraction methods We included articles focused on patient-initiated second opinions, which provided quantitative data on their impact on diagnosis, treatment, prognosis or patient satisfaction, described the characteristics or motivating factors of patients who initiated a second opinion, or the cost-effectiveness of patient-initiated second opinions. Principal findings Thirty-three articles were included in the review. 29 studies considered patient characteristics, 19 patient motivating factors, 10 patient satisfaction and 17 clinical agreement between the first and second opinion. Seeking a second opinion was more common in women, middle-age patients, more educated patients; and in people having a chronic condition, with higher income or socioeconomic status or living in central urban areas. Patients seeking a second opinion sought to gain more information or reassurance about their diagnosis or treatment. While many second opinions confirm the original diagnosis or treatment, discrepancies in opinions had a potential major impact on patient outcomes in up to 58% of cases. No studies reported on the cost effectiveness of patient initiated second opinions. Conclusions This review identified several demographic factors associated with seeking a second opinion, including age, gender, health status, and socioeconomic status. Differences in opinion received, and in the impact of change in opinion, varies significantly between medical specialties. More research is needed to understand the cost effectiveness of second opinions and identify patient groups most likely to benefit from second opinions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere044033
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
StatePublished - 24 Sep 2021


  • general medicine (see internal medicine)
  • health services administration & management
  • quality in health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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