A Prospective Cohort Study of the Impact of Return-to-Work Coordinators in Getting Injured Workers Back on the Job
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Purpose To assess the impact of workplace-based return-to-work (RTW) Coordinators’ interpersonal and functional activities on RTW outcomes. Methods Multivariable logistic regression analyses of cross-sectional and longitudinal survey responses of 632 injured workers with at least 10 days of work absence in Victoria, Australia, adjusting for demographic and other workplace factors. Outcome was being back at work for at least 1 month, measured at both baseline and 6 month follow-up survey. Participant responses to stressfulness of Coordinator interactions were dichotomised into good and poor and evaluated as a proxy for Coordinators’ interpersonal activities, while having a RTW plan was evaluated as a proxy for functional activities. Results At baseline, RTW plans doubled the odds of RTW (OR 2.02; 95% CI 1.40–2.90) and attenuated the impact of good Coordinator interactions (1.14; 0.77–1.70). At 6-month follow-up, the opposite was observed: good interactions nearly doubled odds of RTW (1.90; 1.22–2.95) while RTW plans were non-significant (1.02; 0.68–1.54). Conclusions Differences between when the two Coordinator activities were effective may be due to the nature of claimants who RTW in each survey period. Length of shorter-duration claims are influenced by injury related factors, while psychosocial factors tend to be more important for longer-duration claims. Such factors may determine whether a claimant is more likely to respond to Coordinators’ functional or interpersonal activities. The findings have important implications for increasing Coordinator effectiveness.
KeywordsReturn to work Return to work coordinators Workers’ compensation Occupational health
This research was funded by the Australian Research Council via a Linkage Grant (LP130100091).
TJL conceived the study, conducted analyses, and drafted the manuscript. PMS, SH-J, RL, ADL, and MRS were responsible for the overall cohort design and data collection. TJL, PMS, SH-G, and MRS developed the analysis strategy. All authors made editorial contributions.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
TJL receives salary support from a WorkSafe Victoria grant. WorkSafe Victoria regulates workers’ compensation policies affecting the participants in this study. PMS, RL, SH-J, ADL, and MRS declare they have no conflict of interest.
This project received a Human Ethics Certificate of Approval from the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee on 19 November 2013. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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