The Role of Health Care Providers in Long Term and Complicated Workers’ Compensation Claims
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INTRODUCTION: Health care providers (HCPs) play a central role in workers' compensation systems. In most systems, they are involved in the legitimization of work-related injury, are required to provide information to workers' compensation boards about the nature and extent of the injury, give recommendations about return-to-work capability and provide treatment for injury or illness. This study identifies problems that occur at the interface between the health care system, injured workers, and workers' compensation boards (WCBs) that may complicate and extend workers' compensation claims and the mechanisms that underlie the development of these problems. METHODS: Interviews were sought with injured workers, peer helpers and service providers from a variety of geographic locations in order to get a broad picture of return to work problems and concerns. This analysis includes data from total of 34 interviews with injured workers who had long term and complicated claims. Interviews were also conducted with 14 peer helpers and 21 service providers. RESULTS: We identified four domains related to injured workers' interface with the health care system that played a key role in complicating and prolonging compensation claims. These problems, related to health care access, conflicting or imperfect medical knowledge, limited understanding of compensation system requirements and confusion about decision-making authority, resulted in frustration, financial difficulties and mental health problems for injured workers. CONCLUSION: Recommendations are made about how compensation system parties can find better ways to serve injured worker health care needs and facilitate a smooth relationship between the compensation board and HCPs.
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