Implementation of Early Intervention Protocol in Australia for 'High Risk' Injured Workers is Associated with Fewer Lost Work Days Over 2 Years Than Usual (Stepped) Care

M. K. Nicholas*, D. S. J. Costa, S. J. Linton, C. J. Main, W. S. Shaw, G. Pearce, M. Gleeson, R. Z. Pinto, F. M. Blyth, J. H. McAuley, R. J. E. M. Smeets, A. McGarity

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose 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. Methods The study used a controlled, non-randomised prospective design to compare two case management approaches. For the intervention condition, workers screened within 1-3 weeks of injury as being at high risk of delayed returned to work by the orebro Musculoskeletal Pain Screening Questionnaire-short version (oMPSQ-SF) were offered psychological assessment and a comprehensive protocol to address the identified obstacles for return to work. Similarly identified injured workers in the control condition were managed under usual (stepped) care arrangements. Results 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. Conclusions The findings 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Screening
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Workers' compensation
  • Work injury
  • Early intervention

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