Establishing a Multicenter Network for Patients With Thyroid Nodules and Cancer: Effects on Referral Patterns

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2023 Jan;168(1):91-100. doi: 10.1177/01945998221086203.


Objective: To perform a qualitative evaluation of the Thyroid Network, with a quantitative analysis of second opinion referrals for patients in the southwestern part of the Netherlands who have thyroid nodules and cancer.

Methods: This prospective observational study registered all patients with thyroid nodules and cancer who were referred to the academic hospital from 2 years before and 4 years after the foundation of the Thyroid Network. We implemented biweekly regional multidisciplinary tumor boards using video conference and a regional patient care pathway for patients with thyroid nodules and cancer. For qualitative evaluation, interviews were conducted with a broad selection of stakeholders via maximum variation sampling. The primary outcome was the change in second opinions after the foundation of the Thyroid Network.

Results: Second opinions from Thyroid Network hospitals to the academic hospital decreased from 10 (30%) to 2 (7%) two years after the start of the Thyroid Network (P = .001), while patient referrals remained stable (n = 108 to 106). Qualitative evaluation indicated that the uniform care pathway and the regional multidisciplinary tumor board were valued high.

Discussion: Establishing a regional network, including multidisciplinary tumor boards and a care pathway for patients with thyroid nodules and cancer, resulted in a decrease in second opinions of in-network hospitals and high satisfaction of participating specialists.

Implications for practice: The concept of the Thyroid Network could spread to other regions as well as to other specialties in health care. Future steps would be to assess the effect of regional collaboration on quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Keywords: multidisciplinary tumor boards; thyroid.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Critical Pathways
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Thyroid Nodule* / therapy