Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – A good bedside manner can make a tremendous difference in outcomes for injured workers. A new study indicates those who have a positive relationship with providers recover and return to work sooner than those who do not.
Sensitivity, understanding and respect were mentioned by injured workers as qualities that led to a more trusting relationship with medical professionals, while lack of understanding and poor communication were associated with negative outcomes. The study was based on the self-reported survey responses by more than 4,500 injured workers in Australia from 2018.
The research built on previous studies that found providers can have a healing or harmful role in a patient’s progress “particularly given they can often be the gatekeeper between the injured worker and the insurance system and they certify fitness for duty,” the authors said. “Consistent with this prior study, we identified that stressful healthcare provider interactions have a negative association with return to work.” Their findings were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
To determine the stress level of relationships with providers the injured worker were asked “to what extent have your interactions with your healthcare provider(s) been stressful or not stressful?” The responses could have been ‘‘extremely stressful,” ‘‘quite a bit stressful,” ‘‘a bit stressful,” ‘‘not very stressful,” or ‘‘not at all stressful.” ‘Stressful’ interactions were defined as those in which the worker responded with any of ‘‘extremely stressful,” ‘‘quite a bit stressful,” or ‘‘a bit stressful.” Interactions deemed ‘not stressful’ included those where the worker said ‘‘not very stressful” or ‘‘not at all stressful.”
For the RTW measurement, the worker was simply asked ‘‘Have you returned to work at any time since your work-related injury or illness?” ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ responses were included while those who refused to answer the question were excluded from the analyses.
“… experiencing stressful interactions with providers was significantly associated with 33 percent lower odds of return to work,” the researchers found. “Those who only consulted with a single HCP and whose main provider was an allied health professional also had higher odds of return to work. ‘
A “positive” relationship between the injured worker and medical provider was characterized by:
“Workers that felt listened to and believed, respected, and were kept informed have reported positive HCP interactions,” the authors wrote. “Listening to patients’ concerns and experiences is instrumental in creating and maintaining strong patient doctor relationships, ensuring a more accurate clinical diagnosis, and can help ensure doctors act as a therapeutic agent.”
Conversely, stressful interactions with providers included those in which the medical professional was seen as not understanding the worker’s condition, provided inadequate treatment and failed to communicate adequately. Poor access to healthcare when needed was also a factor in stressful interactions.
“Some injured workers are required to travel considerable distances to access certain types of treatment, such as a medical specialist,” the authors wrote. “Injured workers have reported negative experiences and stress while awaiting treatments that require insurer approval. Insurer approval is not always granted, and there may be delays or gaps in treatment while awaiting approval. Injured workers are sometimes required to attend independent medical examinations commissioned by the insurer, which have been described as arduous, and contribute to increased pain and stress. In summary, stressors regarding HCP interactions can surface due to issues with access, treatment, or interpersonal relationships.”