Minnesota Workers' Compensation Health Initiative Finds Costs Fall When Patients Feel Cared for

Development of a coordinated benefits model of health care for work-related and non-work-related conditions

From 1997 to 1998, staff at the Minnesota Health Partnership designed and evaluated a model blending the best components of general health and workers' compensation medical care.

Under the model, called the Coordinated Health Care and Disability Prevention Model, employees went to their usual primary care provider for both work- and non-work-related complaints.

Participating providers documented the kinds and amounts of activity that were appropriate for each patient's condition in a written activity plan, which patients used to inform employers or other third parties about any medically necessary limitations in their activities at work or elsewhere.

The Institute for Research and Education, the research and outreach arm of Park Nicollet Health Services (an integrated care system in Minneapolis), served as the administrator of the grant.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Workers' Compensation Health Initiative national program.

Evaluation Findings

  • Patients who received a written activity plan gave higher ratings to the time they spent with their provider, their provider's skills and their overall satisfaction with their clinic.

  • Patients who reported a stronger relationship with their provider and that their provider took more steps to prevent and manage their disability also reported fewer physical health problems, fewer lost days from work and higher ratings of mental health.

  • There was a high level of agreement among physicians about the positive impact of disability prevention strategies, but more than half (56%) thought that having to complete a written activity plan was burdensome, and a significant minority (22%) thought that it might interfere with the patient-provider relationship.

  • Among employers with any costs related to lost work time, a preliminary analysis suggests that average costs were lower for test employers than for control employers.