Background: Objective was to describe variations in how social insurance officers conceive the cooperation with the health care in their daily work with sick leave.
Methods: Fifteen social insurance officers (SIOs) working with administration of sickness benefits were interviewed. They were purposefully recruited to represent different parts of the social insurance office organization, different ages, gender, education, and work experience. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using phenomenographic approach.
Results: 11 women and 4 men, aged 25-65, with a work experience ranging from 1-40 years were interviewed. Three descriptive categories embracing eleven subcategories emerged: 1) Communication channels included three subcategories; to obtain medical opinions, to hold meetings with actors involved, to experience support functions; 2) Organizational conditions included five subcategories; to experience lack of time, to experience problems of availability, to experience lack of continuity, to experience unclear responsibility, to experience ongoing change; 3) Attitudes included three subcategories; to conceive the attitudes of the physicians, to conceive the attitudes of the patients, to conceive the attitudes of the SIOs.
Conclusion: Personal communication was described as crucial to ensure a more efficient working process. The personal contact was obstructed mainly by issues related to work load, lack of continuity, and reorganisations. By enhancing and enabling personal contact between SIOs and health care professionals, the waiting times for the sick-listed might be shortened, resulting in shorter periods of sick-leave. Issues around collaboration and communication between gatekeepers need to be recognized in the ongoing work with new guidelines and education in insurance medicine.