That injured workers need prompt access to quality medical care is not under debate. All stakeholders agree that the ability to recover quickly and experience a timely and appropriate return to work is key to containing the costs associated with time off work, both in terms of loss of earnings for workers and of increased expenses to employers. However, there is little consensus to date on how to measure outcomes to ensure that medical care that is both clinically and cost effective is being delivered.
Four approaches to identifying effective measurements of outcomes were presented at WCRI’s 1996 Annual Issues & Research Conference and are detailed in this report. The first paper describes an ambitious and comprehensive approach to identifying those outcomes that are important to measure; selecting methods to measure the outcomes; and analyzing, interpreting and reporting the results. The second paper justifies government involvement in regulating medical care and in collecting data to monitor outcomes. An opposing view is offered by the author of a third paper. Maintaining that government involvement will stifle desirable innovation, this author believes that marketplace forces will encourage appropriate choices in medical treatments, resulting in optimal care. The fourth paper emphasizes that the needs of injured workers cannot be measured by dollars alone. This author contends that any measurement of the quality of medical care must also effectively assess the extent to which a worker returns to a satisfying and productive life, both professionally and personally.
Despite the differing perspectives offered by these authors, they do agree that significant limitations are present in all measurement methods. More research is needed to identify the outcomes that will help providers make sound decisions while ensuring that workers feel confident about the quality of their medical care.
Workers’ Compensation Medical Care: Effective Measurement of Outcomes. Kate Kimpan, Editor. October 1996. WC–96–7.
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