Background: Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most important causes of work disability. Various rehabilitation services and return-to-work programs have been developed in order to reduce sickness absence and increase sustainable return-to-work. As the effects of conventional medical rehabilitation programs on sickness absence duration were shown to be slight, work-related medical rehabilitation programs have been developed and tested. While such studies proved the efficacy of work-related medical rehabilitation compared with conventional medical rehabilitation in well-conducted randomized controlled trials, its effectiveness under real-life conditions has yet to be proved. Methods/Design: The cohort study will be performed under real-life conditions with two parallel groups. Participants will receive either a conventional or a work-related medical rehabilitation program. Propensity score matching will be used to identify controls that are comparable to treated work-related medical rehabilitation patients. Over a period of three months, about 18,000 insured patients with permission to undergo a musculoskeletal rehabilitation program will be contacted. Of these, 15,000 will receive a conventional and 3,000 a work-related medical rehabilitation. We expect a participation rate of 40 % at baseline. Patients will be aged 18 to 65 years and have chronic musculoskeletal disorders, usually back pain. The control group will receive a conventional medical rehabilitation program without any explicit focus on work, work ability and return to work in diagnostics and therapy. The intervention group will receive a work-related medical rehabilitation program that in addition to common rehabilitation treatments contains 11 to 25 h of work-related treatment modules. Follow-up data will be assessed three and ten months after patients' discharge from the rehabilitation center. Additionally, department characteristics will be assessed and administrative data records used. The primary outcomes are sick leave duration, stable return to work and subjective work ability. Secondary outcomes cover several dimensions of health, functioning and coping strategies. Discussion: This study will determine the relative effectiveness of a complex, newly implemented work-related rehabilitation strategy for patients with musculoskeletal disorders. Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00009780, February 10, 2016).
Research Areas and Centers
- Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)