Effective communication has been demonstrated to impact patient health outcomes, specifically in improving symptom resolution, safety, function, and emotional well-being, and to lower malpractice claims. I hypothesized that the communication process with patients with Workers’ Compensation is inadequate.
Prospectively, claimants presenting for an independent medical evaluation or an impairment rating were assessed concerning the education that they received with regard to their claim. Basic principles were based on the Utah Labor Commission Employee’s Guide to Workers’ Compensation and an employee information sheet.
There were 556 consecutive claimants assessed. None of the participants expressed any familiarity with the employee information sheet. Although there was a mean of 12 months since the date of claim to the evaluation, 536 participants (96.4%) were effectively unaware of the principles surrounding their claim; of these participants, 6 had attorneys and 23 had prior industrial claims. Of the 3.6% of participants who had received the State Employee Guide, 5 had a prior evaluation with the medical director of the Labor Commission, 6 had located the information online, and 9 had been provided information by their nurse-case manager. Even with this information, the context or importance of the information was not well understood. There were 16.4% of participants who were aware of the mileage compensation. Two claimants were aware that the insurer, not the employer, was responsible for managing the claim, 2 claimants were aware that their claim was open for life, and 1 claimant was aware that claimants could change physicians.
Workers’ Compensation programs were designed to expedite care and treatment while decreasing the adversarial environment for workplace injuries. Yet delays and confrontational events continue to be experienced by the injured worker. This often results in the impression that workplace injuries have worse outcomes for the same diagnosis. The lack of effective education with regard to the rights and responsibilities of the claimant may also lead to this poorer outcome. Given studies showing the benefits of patient education in preventing malpractice claims and improving health-care outcomes, it is suggested that improved patient education for the injured worker is warranted and may lead to improved outcomes with diminished adversarial events.