Improve RTW outcomes with targeted interventions

The presence of psychosocial factors soon after an injury can predict the cost of a workers compensation injury independently of the type or location of an injury. The provision of an early assessment and intervention process can reduce costs in high risk claims.
The longer a worker is off work following an injury the less likely it is that they will ever return to work. However, there are strategies to identify injured workers who are more likely to remain off work for extended periods. An injured worker’s expectations of their own recovery has been found to be a strong predictor of returning to work (Kuijer et al, 2006). It is critical to identify why the worker has these expectations, as frequently the reasons are psychosocial issues.
The Orebro Musculoskeletal Pain Screening questionnaire is a valuable objective tool that has been found to accurately identify 85% of workers four weeks following a back injury who will not be working at six months. Specific interventions for these workers have been shown to prevent a poor return to work outcome. Factors that may impact on a successful return to work may include fear of re-injury/pain, depression and anxiety, expectations of recovery, and an inability to re-engage in non-work activities following injury.

Early screening allows for an efficient use of resources to specifically target the twenty percent of injured workers who are considered ‘high risk’ and early intervention actively targets the identified risk factors to remove the barriers to return to work for these workers. A large Sydney hospital utilised this approach to reduce their average workers’ compensation cost per employee by approximately 80%.

Further training for health clinicians and return to work professionals who manage people with a range of pain conditions is available on the Pain Management in practice website. Information is also available on identifying injured workers at ‘high risk’ and strategies to prevent a poor return to work outcomes.

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