Occupational Medicine vol:56 issue:2 pages:129-136
BACKGROUND: One increasingly attractive hypothesis to account for prolonged sickness absence from work is the presence of 'information asymmetry' among stakeholders. Information asymmetry refers to a situation in which critical information is not (appropriately) exchanged, in this case among those involved in disability management. AIM: The purpose of this study was to intervene positively in the information asymmetry that currently exists between social insurance physicians and occupational physicians in Belgium. METHODS: We developed a novel model aimed at improving information exchange, and a pilot study protocol based on the model. Our first objective was to investigate feasibility of implementing the study protocol. Our second and main objective was to obtain preliminary results on whether improving information exchange between physicians would facilitate work resumption of employees out on sickness absence. RESULTS: Of 126 patients recruited, 91 were eligible and assigned to one of two groups: a control group, whose physicians used the standard Belgian evaluation protocol, and an intervention group, whose physicians used our new protocol. Outcome parameters from the 15 patients assigned to the intervention group revealed that enhanced inter-physician information exchange produced favourable work resumption rates (73%), suggesting that both the model and study protocol show promise. CONCLUSIONS: The issue of sharing information among all stakeholders involved in disability management is an important one. Moreover, professional reintegration of employees after a sickness absence is universally important to occupational health practitioners. Our preliminary results suggest that reducing information asymmetry among physicians should be investigated further in larger intervention trials.