Perceived role and expectations of health care providers in return to work
Purpose Health care providers (HCPs) play an important role in return to work (RTW) and in the workers' compensation system. However, HCPs may feel unsure about their responsibilities in the RTW process and experience difficulty making recommendations about RTW readiness and limitations. This study examines the ways in which HCPs and case managers (CMs) perceive HCPs role in the RTW process, and how similarities and differences between these views, in turn, inform expectations of HCPs. Methods In-depth interviews were conducted with 69 HCPs and 34 CMs from 4 provinces. Data were double coded and a thematic, inductive analysis was carried out to develop key themes. Findings The main role of HCPs was to diagnose injury and provide patients with appropriate treatment. In addition, the majority of HCPs and CMs viewed providing medical information to workers' compensation board (WCB) and the general encouragement of RTW as important roles played by HCPs. There was less clarity, and at times disagreement, about the scope of HCPs' role in providing medical information to WCB and encouraging RTW, such as the type of information they should provide and the timelines for RTW. Conclusion Interviews suggest that different role expectations may stem from differing perspectives of HCPs and the CMs had regarding RTW. A comprehensive discussion between WCB decision-makers and HCPs is needed, with an end goal of reaching consensus regarding roles and responsibilities in the RTW process. The findings highlight the importance of establishing clearer role expectations.