Systematic Review of the Impact on Return to Work of Return-to-Work Coordinators

J Occup Rehabil. 2021 Dec;31(4):675-698. doi: 10.1007/s10926-021-09975-6. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


Purpose We conducted a systematic review to understand the impact that return-to-work coordinators (RTWCs) have on return to work (RTW) outcomes for sick/injured workers. Methods MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and ABI Inform were searched from January 1, 2000 to September 16, 2020. Of 2,927 retrieved and screened citations, 14 quantitative articles fulfilled the eligibility and quality criteria. Quality assessment, data extraction, and evidence synthesis followed article screening. Results We focused on the impact of RTWCs for outcomes of work absence, RTW rates, quality of life, and cost-benefit. Our final synthesis included 14 articles. We found strong evidence that work absence duration was reduced when workers had face-to-face contact with a RTWC. As well, there was strong evidence linking face-to-face RTWC interventions with higher RTW rates and moderate evidence that this reduced intervention costs. RTWC interventions involving the identification of barriers and facilitators to RTW also showed promising results. However, only limited evidence was found that RTWCs improved quality of life for workers. Conclusions Our synthesis identifies key features of RTW interventions that improve RTW outcomes. Future high-quality research should measure long-term outcomes of RTWC interventions to evaluate sustainability and consider the nature of work. They should also focus on RTWC impact on worker quality of life assessments and for older workers and workers with chronic health conditions.

Keywords: Case management; Return to work coordination; Systematic review; Work absence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Return to Work*