Health care professionals’ attitudes towards evidence-based medicine in the workers’ compensation setting: a cohort study

Nieke A. Elbers*, Robin Chase, Ashley Craig, Lyn Guy, Ian A. Harris, James W. Middleton, Michael K. Nicholas, Trudy Rebbeck, John Walsh, Simon Willcock, Keri Lockwood, Ian D. Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Problems may arise during the approval process of treatment after a compensable work injury, which include excess paperwork, delays in approving services, disputes, and allegations of over-servicing. This is perceived as undesirable for injured people, health care professionals and claims managers, and costly to the health care system, compensation system, workplaces and society. Introducing an Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) decision tool in the workers’ compensation system could provide a partial solution, by reducing uncertainty about effective treatment. The aim of this study was to investigate attitudes of health care professionals (HCP) to the potential implementation of an EBM tool in the workers’ compensation setting. Methods: The study has a mixed methods design. The quantitative study consisted of an online questionnaire asking about self-reported knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to EBM in general. The qualitative study consisted of interviews about an EBM tool being applied in the workers’ compensation process. Participants were health care practitioners from different clinical specialties. They were recruited through the investigators’ clinical networks and the workers’ compensation government regulator’s website. Results: Participants completing the questionnaire (n = 231) indicated they were knowledgeable about the evidence-base in their field, but perceived some difficulties when applying EBM. General practitioners reported having the greatest obstacles to applying EBM. Participants who were interviewed (n = 15) perceived that an EBM tool in the workers’ compensation setting could potentially have some advantages, such as reducing inappropriate treatment, or over-servicing, and providing guidance for clinicians. However, participants expressed substantial concerns that the EBM tool would not adequately reflect the impact of psychosocial factors on recovery. They also highlighted a lack of timeliness in decision making and proper assessment, particularly in pain management. Conclusions: Overall, HCP are supportive of EBM, but have strong concerns about implementation of EBM based decision making in the workers’ compensation setting. The participants felt that an EBM tool should not be applied rigidly and should take into account clinical judgement and patient variability and preferences. In general, the treatment approval process in the workers’ compensation insurance system is a sensitive area, in which the interaction between HCP and claims managers can be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2017


  • evidence-based medicine
  • workers’ compensation process
  • health care practitioners
  • guidelines


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