Association Between the Type of First Healthcare Provider and the Duration of Financial Compensation for Occupational Back Pain

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SOURCE:   Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 2016 (Sep 17)

Marc-André Blanchette, Michèle Rivard, Clermont E. Dionne, Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Ivan Steenstra

Public Health PhD Program,
School of Public Health,
University of Montreal,
Montreal, QC, Canada.

Objective   To compare the duration of financial compensation and the occurrence of a second episode of compensation of workers with occupational back pain who first sought three types of healthcare providers.

Methods   We analyzed data from a cohort of 5,511 workers who received compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for back pain in 2005. Multivariable Cox models controlling for relevant covariables were performed to compare the duration of financial compensation for the patients of each of the three types of first healthcare providers. Logistic regression was used to compare the occurrence of a second episode of compensation over the 2-year follow-up period.

Results   Compared with the workers who first saw a physician (reference), those who first saw a chiropractor experienced shorter first episodes of 100 % wage compensation (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.20 [1.10-1.31], P value < 0.001), and the workers who first saw a physiotherapist experienced a longer episode of 100 % compensation (adjusted HR = 0.84 [0.71-0.98], P value = 0.028) during the first 149 days of compensation. The odds of having a second episode of financial compensation were higher among the workers who first consulted a physiotherapist (OR = 1.49 [1.02-2.19], P value = 0.040) rather than a physician (reference).

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Conclusion   The type of healthcare provider first visited for back pain is a determinant of the duration of financial compensation during the first 5 months. Chiropractic patients experience the shortest duration of compensation, and physiotherapy patients experience the longest. These differences raise concerns regarding the use of physiotherapists as gatekeepers for the worker’s compensation system. Further investigation is required to understand the between-provider differences.

KEYWORDS:   Back pain; Chiropractic; Compensation duration; Healthcare provider; Medicine; Occupational; Physiotherapy