Implementation of a disability management policy in a large healthcare employer: a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods evaluation

Publication type
Journal article
Mustard C Skivington K Lay M Lifshen M Etches J Chambers A
Date published
2017 Jun 17
BMJ Open
Open Access?

OBJECTIVE: This study describes the process and outcomes of the implementation of a strengthened disability management policy in a large Canadian healthcare employer. Key elements of the strengthened policy included an emphasis on early contact, the training of supervisors and the integration of union representatives in return-to-work (RTW) planning. DESIGN: The study applied mixed methods, combining a process evaluation within the employer and a quasi-experimental outcome evaluation between employers for a 3-year period prior to and following policy implementation in January 2012. PARTICIPANTS: Staff in the implementation organisation (n=4000) and staff in a peer group of 29 large hospitals (n=1 19 000). OUTCOMES: Work disability episode incidence and duration. RESULTS: Both qualitative and quantitative measures of the implementation process were predominantly positive. Over the 6-year observation period, there were 624 work disability episodes in the organisation and 8604 in the comparison group of 29 large hospitals. The annual per cent change in episode incidence in the organisation was -5.6 (95% CI -9.9 to -1.1) comparable to the annual per cent change in the comparison group: -6.2 (-7.2 to -5.3). Disability episode durations also declined in the organisation, from a mean of 19.4 days (16.5, 22.3) in the preintervention period to 10.9 days (8.7, 13.2) in the postintervention period. Reductions in disability durations were also observed in the comparison group: from a mean of 13.5 days (12.9, 14.1) in the 2009-2011 period to 10.5 days (9.9, 11.1) in the 2012-2014 period. CONCLUSION: The incidence of work disability episodes and the durations of work disability declined strongly in this hospital sector over the 6-year observation period. The implementation of the organisation's RTW policy was associated with larger reductions in disability durations than observed in the comparison group