New online education program will help physiotherapists promote Return to Work

Researchers have published a report that details strategies to enable physiotherapists to promote timely Return to Work (RTW) following injury.

The report describes the barriers and facilitators that affect physiotherapists in this context, and details the research team's subsequent development and evaluation of an online program to educate physiotherapists in best practice for RTW.

The following factors have been identified as barriers impacting on physiotherapists' ability to facilitate timely RTW:

  • Injured worker attitudes;
  • The workplace;
  • Unified targets and positive approaches to care by all stakeholders;
  • System delays;
  • Inappropriate certification of capacity;
  • Communication skills; and
  • Knowledge of the Victorian compensation system.

These findings informed the team's development of an online education program.

The program has so far been accessedby 988 physiotherapists, and users have responded positively, reporting a marked improvement in their understanding of relevant TAC and WorkSafe policy and procedures, as well as their ability to adhere to the Early Intervention Physiotherapist Framework policy and correctly complete Certificates of Capacity for injured compensable clients.

Early analysis of claims data suggests that this program is also delivering positive results in terms of RTW rates. If this is confirmed over a sustained period, this program will be appropriate for a randomised controlled trial, perhaps in additional Australian jurisdictions. It could also be implemented in the final year of professional entry-level education to enhance the knowledge of new physiotherapy graduates entering the workforce.

These report marks the end of a research project inspired by mounting scientific evidence around the benefits of timely RTW and focus largely on refining the process through which health practitioners issue certificates of capacity to injured workers.

Read more about this project.

Read more about research into the role of primary care in recovery and RTW.