IR # 96-02
Wednesday, January 10, 1996

Richard Stephens
(415) 975-0721
Rick Rice
(714) 935-2812

DWC Selected to Conduct New NIOSH Study of Return-to-Work
Decisions by Physicians in Lower Back Injury Cases

SAN FRANCISCO--The Department of Industrial Relations Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) will participate in a first of its kind study of how physicians determine when to release employees with disabling low back injuries back to work under a new research grant awarded by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).

"This is a new health services grants program in NIOSH, and we are pleased that DWC, in collaboration with the California Public Health Foundation, is one of six awardees nationally," said DWC Administrative Director Casey L. Young.

"The information gained should facilitate improved management of the return-to-work process, a critical element in the state's workers' compensation system," he said. "The study will also provide important new insight into the injured workers' experience in returning to work following a disabling back injury."

"One of our many challenges is to determine which factors permit health care organizations to successfully reduce medical costs and help them manage the return-to-work process in order to hold down indemnity costs," Young said.

This study is important, because although physicians play a key role in the return-to-work process, virtually nothing is known about the factors which influence their return-to-work determinations, he added. p>The study will involve a quota sample of 300 physicians drawn from different health care delivery systems. Medical charts of injured workers with low back injuries will be abstracted to obtain information about the release to return-to-work and work restrictions. Physicians will be interviewed about their knowledge and practices regarding return-to-work after low back injury.


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