Clinical Utility of Predictors of Return-to-work Outcome Following Work-related Musculoskeletal Injury

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Clinical expertise is one source of evidence that is generally under-utilised in the development of an evidence-base in rehabilitation. The current study aimed to incorporate this valuable clinical expertise in determining the utility of multiple predictors of return-to-work outcome following injury.


Following systematic review of the rehabilitation literature and review, a total of 85 predictors were evaluated for clinical relevance by an expert panel of rehabilitation practitioners (n = 12). Each predictor was rated according the importance of the predictor in rehabilitation, its potential for modification and its classification into one of seven broad areas. In addition, practitioners were asked to provide a rationale as to why the predictor was important to rehabilitation. Analyses were conducted using inter-rater agreement statistics and text analysis.


Predictors that were most commonly reviewed in the literature were not considered to be of greatest clinical utility, according to the current sample. From the total predictor set, only nine predictors were identified as clinically useful (i.e., both highly important and highly modifiable). Text analysis of the qualitative data revealed that these nine predictors highlighted the significance of time, context and engagement in rehabilitation practice.


In the current study, predictors that were considered most clinically relevant were those that generally described workplace related processes. The findings confirmed the underlying supportive and collaborative processes that integrate predictors and account for their influence on outcome. Future rehabilitation efforts and indeed, individual outcomes, could benefit by incorporating these key predictors in targeted programs.

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