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Measuring Work Disability: What Can Administrative Data Tell Us About Patient Outcomes?

Fulton-Kehoe, Deborah PhD, MPH; Gluck, Jeremy PhD; Wu, Rae MD, MPH; Mootz, Robert DC; Wickizer, Thomas M. PhD; Franklin, Gary M. MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 6 - p 651-658
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318058a9e7
Original Articles

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the association between administrative measures of work disability and self-reported work, pain, and functional status.

Methods: We conducted baseline and follow-up interviews to assess pain, functional status, work status, and demographic factors in workers with low back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and upper and lower extremity fractures. Administrative measures of work disability were obtained from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Results: Pain intensity and impairment levels were lowest in those who had not received any disability payments, somewhat higher for those who were no longer receiving time loss benefits, and highest for workers receiving time loss payments at the time of interview.

Conclusions: Administrative measures of work disability are significantly associated with self-reported outcomes and can be an efficient tool for tracking and evaluating outcomes of medical treatments, surgical procedures, and occupational health programs.

From the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (Drs Fulton-Kehoe, Gluck, Franklin, and Wu), University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Office of the Medical Director (Drs Mootz and Franklin),Washington State Department of Labor and Industry, Seattle, WA; and the Department of Health Services (Dr Wickizer), University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Address correspondence to: Deborah Fulton-Kehoe, PhD, MPH, University of Washington, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, 1914 N. 34th St., #101, Seattle, WA 98103; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine