Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a training to increase collaboration between general practitioners and occupational health physicians in the treatment of patients with low back pain (LBP) because more collaboration might improve a patient's recovery and shorten sick leave.
Methods: In a controlled trial, the intervention in one region was compared with usual care in a control region. Participating physicians enrolled patients with LBP on sick leave for 3-12 weeks. Patients filled out three questionnaires: at inclusion, at 3 months, and at 6 months. Information on sick leave was gathered from occupational health services. All analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat basis.
Results: Fifty-six patients with LBP were enrolled in each region. There was little collaboration between physicians during the project. Patients in the intervention region returned to work significantly later (P=.005) but were significantly more satisfied with their occupational health physician (P=.01). No differences were found between the intervention and control patients for pain, disability, quality of life, and medical consumption.
Conclusion: Our study does not show a positive effect of the training to increase collaboration between general practitioners and occupational health physicians. The training may not have improved collaboration enough to influence the prognosis of LBP.