Problem: One of the key players in the return-to-work (RTW) and work accommodation process is the healthcare provider (HCP). This study examines the association between RTW approximately one month post injury and early, proactive HCP communication with the patient and workplace.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study 187 Ontario workers completed a telephone survey 17-43 days post injury. All had accepted or pending lost-time claims for back, neck or upper extremity occupational musculoskeletal injuries. Logistic regression was used to analyze the effects of three self-reported items "your HCP told you the date you could RTW," "your HCP advised you on how to prevent re-injury or recurrence," "your HCP made contact with your workplace" on self-reported RTW. Fourteen potential confounders were also tested in the model including sex, age, income, education, occupational classification, worksite size, co-morbidity, psycho-physical work demands, pain, job satisfaction, depression, and time from injury to interview.
Results: The HCP giving a patient a RTW date (adjusted OR=3.33, 95% CI=1.62-6.87) and giving a patient guidance on how to prevent recurrence and re-injury (adjusted OR=2.71, 95% CI=1.24-5.95) were positively associated with an early RTW. Contact by the HCP with the workplace was associated with RTW, however, this association became weaker upon adjusting for confounding variables (crude OR=2.11, 95% C1=1.09-4.09; adjusted OR=1.72, 95% CI=0.83-3.58).
Interpretation: Our study lends support to the HCP playing an active role early in the RTW process, one that includes direct contact with the workplace and proactive communication with the patient.