Health Care Provider Communication and the Duration of Time Loss Among Injured Workers: A Prospective Cohort Study

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Background:In addition to providing injured workers with biomedical treatment, health care providers (HCPs) can promote return to work (RTW) through various communications.Objectives:To test the effect of several types of HCP communications on time loss following injury.Research Design:The authors analyzed survey and administrative claims data from a total of 730 injured workers in Victoria, Australia. Survey responses were collected around 5 months postinjury and provided data on HCP communication and confounders. Administrative claim records provided data on compensated time loss postsurvey. The authors conducted multivariate zero-inflated Poisson regressions to determine both the odds of having future time loss and its duration.Measures:Types of HCP communications included providing an estimated RTW date, discussing types of activities the injured worker could do or ways to prevent a recurrence, and contacting other RTW stakeholders. Each was measured in isolation as well as modified by a low-stress experience with the HCP. Time loss was the count of cumulative compensated work absence in weeks, accrued postsurvey.Results:RTW dates reduced the odds of future time loss [odds ratio, 0.26; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.09–0.82] regardless of the stressfulness of the experience. Communications that predicted shorter durations of time loss only did so with low-stress experiences: RTW date [incidence rate ratio (IRR), 0.56; 95% CI, 0.50–0.63], stakeholder contact (IRR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.70–0.87), and prevention discussions (IRR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.78–0.98).Conclusions:HCPs may reduce time loss through several types of communication, particularly when stress is minimized. RTW dates had the largest and most robust effect.

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