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118 THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A WEB-BASED COUNSELLING PROGRAM FOR ABSENT WORKERS DUE TO NECK AND BACK PAIN: STUDY DESIGN AND FIRST RESULTS
Sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders is high. Occupational physicians (OP) in The Netherlands often refer to second-line medical care at a late stage in the sickness absence period, despite the presence of Dutch OP guidelines advising differently. In addition, the development of the internet has expanded enormously, but not in occupational medicine. Therefore, a website has been developed called www.snelbeter.nl, which counsels workers absent due to neck or back pain. The website starts with a questionnaire, followed by individually based instructions for exercises, education and coping tools. The purpose of this website is to stimulate daily activity and to improve coping with pain by increasing the worker’s grip on the situation, which might result in earlier return to work. The objective of the study is to investigate the effectiveness of this website.
The study is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with a 6-month follow-up questionnaire. The study population consists of employees of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and the Dutch National Railways sick-listed due to non-specific neck or back pain. Sickness absence may be partial, and has to last at least 2 weeks. “Red flags” (fever, weight loss, radiating pain, etc) are exclusion criteria. Randomisation takes place at the level of the OP, because the OPs play an important role implementing the web-based counselling program. Since the 51 OPs in the study were assigned to the intervention and control group and not the sick-listed employees, pre-randomisation was carried out. This means that the employees are kept unaware of their intervention or control status, but that they are informed about the different approaches that are compared in the study. Outcome measures are time to return to work, grip on the situation (of employee) and performance (of the OP) regarding the presence of a rehabilitation plan and referral to second-line medical …