Doctor proactive communication, return-to-work recommendation, and duration of disability after a workers' compensation low back injury

J Occup Environ Med. 2001 Jun;43(6):515-25. doi: 10.1097/00043764-200106000-00001.


Although doctors are increasingly evaluated on the basis of return-to-work (RTW) outcomes, the effect of doctor-patient communication about the workplace and RTW after an occupational injury has received little research attention. The effect of patient-reported doctor communication on duration of disability was examined retrospectively in a 3-year cohort of 325 claimants with a lost-time low back injury. Although doctor proactive communication was associated with a greater likelihood of RTW during the acute phase (< 30 days of disability), this effect disappeared when injury and workload characteristics were taken into account. A positive RTW recommendation was associated with about a 60% higher RTW rate during the subacute/chronic phase (> 30 days of disability) only. Prospective studies are needed to confirm this effect. The impact of physician communication on RTW is largely confounded by injury and workplace factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Injuries / economics
  • Back Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / economics
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*
  • Workers' Compensation*