New research from the Pain Management Research Institute at the University of Sydney, led by Professor Michael Nicholas, has released promising findings. The study sought to evaluate whether a protocol for early intervention addressing the psychosocial risk factors for delayed return to work in workers with soft tissue injuries would achieve better long-term outcomes than usual (stepped) care.
Briefly, the study involves identifying (within a week of injury) injured workers who may be at risk of delayed recovery/return to work (RTW) and treating them according to a protocol supported by the key stakeholders (workplace, insurer, treatment providers, and insurance scheme regulator). Critically, this is a multi-level intervention, with no particular treatment specified. In fact, the same treatments were available to both Intervention and Control groups. It was funded by a consortium comprising the NSW Ministry of Health (MoH), icare (TMF), and EML Workers Compensation insurance, and PMRI/Kolling/University of Sydney provided the research expertise.
At 2-year follow-up, the mean lost work days for the Intervention group was less than half that of the usual care group, their claim costs were 30% lower, as was the growth trajectory of their costs after 11 months.
The findings thus supported the hypothesis that brief psychological risk factor screening, combined with a protocol for active collaboration between key stakeholders to address identified psychological and workplace factors for delayed return to work, can achieve better return on investment than usual (stepped) care.
For more information on the Work Injury Screening and Early intervention (WISE) study, click here.