Communication and collaboration among return-to-work stakeholders

Publication type
Journal article
Russell E, Kosny A
Date published
2019 Nov 01
Disability & Rehabilitation
Open Access?

PURPOSE: Workers who are injured or become ill on the job are best able to return-to-work when stakeholders involved in their case collaborate and communicate. This study examined health care providers' and case managers' engagement in rehabilitation and return-to-work following workplace injury or illness. METHOD: In-depth interviews were conducted with 97 health care providers and 34 case managers in four Canadian provinces about their experiences facilitating rehabilitation and return-to-work, and interacting with system stakeholders. RESULTS: A qualitative thematic content analysis demonstrated two key findings. Firstly, stakeholders were challenged to collaborate as a result of: barriers to interdisciplinary and cross-professional communication; philosophical differences about the timing and appropriateness of return-to-work; and confusion among health care providers about the workers' compensation system. Secondly, these challenges adversely affected the co-ordination of patient care, and consequentially, injured workers often became information conduits, and effective and timely treatment and return-to-work was sometimes negatively impacted. CONCLUSIONS: Communication challenges between health care providers and case managers may negatively impact patient care and alienate treating health care providers. Discussion about role clarification, the appropriateness of early return-to-work, how paperwork shapes health care providers' role expectations, and strengthened inter-professional communication are considered. Implications for Rehabilitation Administrative and conceptual barriers in workers' compensation systems challenge collaboration and communication between health care providers and case managers. Injured workers may become conduits of incorrect information, resulting in adversarial relationships, overturned health care providers' recommendations, and their disengagement from rehabilitation and return-to-work. Stakeholders should clarify the role of health care providers during rehabilitation and return-to-work and the appropriateness of early return-to-work to mitigate recurring challenges. Communication procedures between health care specialists may disrupt these challenges, increasing the likelihood of timely and effective rehabilitation and return-to-work