Between government policy, clinical autonomy, and market demands: A qualitative study of the impact of the Prescribing Analysis System on behavior of physicians in South Korea

Dong Sook Kim, Green Bae, Soo Yeon Yoo, Minah Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: In South Korea, the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service manages the Prescribing Analysis System (PAS) to evaluate the appropriate use of medication. To achieve the system's goal of changing prescribing behavior, it is critical to understand how physicians respond to the PAS. This study analyzes the opinions of South Korean physicians about the PAS, the way it is used, and factors affecting prescribing behavior. Methods: A qualitative, exploratory approach was used, with four focus groups of physicians from different specialties. A semi-structured guide was used to explore their opinions. Transcripts of the discussions were analyzed by the authors, who independently considered content using uniform categories. Common themes were extracted and used to gather results and draw conclusions. Results: Physicians acknowledged some positive aspects of the PAS but, overall, had mainly negative impressions of the system, and particularly, the evaluation reports that it generates. They reported that their prescribing behavior was affected by predisposing factors, including experiential, environmental and psychological factors. Physicians reported that their negative perceptions regarding the regulations were primarily influenced by concerns about maintaining their autonomy and expertise. However, their strong resistance to these perceived infringements on their independence may be considered inconsistent in relation to their professional autonomy as there was an equally strong concern about market competition. Physicians' objections to the PAS are more likely to have been caused by deeply rooted distrust of the government agency in charge of the system. Discussion: Interestingly, we found that physicians' strong resistance to perceived violations of their autonomy seems somewhat inconsistent and contradictory. While they are very positive about new information or printed materials provided by pharmaceutical representatives, they are less enthusiastic when it comes to governmental guidelines or standards. Similarly, they appear to willingly accept situations in which they believe they should comply with patients' demands as a means of surviving in a competitive market. It is notable that physicians' negative perceptions of PAS seemed to be aggravated by suspicion and distrust regarding the purpose of this program. Conclusions: Because of widespread beliefs in professional autonomy, market competition, and a deep-seated distrust of the system, it would be difficult for the government to persuade physicians to change their prescribing behaviors using only the PAS. Successful implementation of the PAS will not only require its improvement as a policy tool, but also the creation of a social consensus regarding the PAS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number397
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Kim et al.


  • Focus Group Interview (FGI)
  • Policy implementation
  • Policy tools
  • Prescribing Analysis System (PAS)
  • Prescribing behaviors
  • Trust in government


Dive into the research topics of 'Between government policy, clinical autonomy, and market demands: A qualitative study of the impact of the Prescribing Analysis System on behavior of physicians in South Korea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this