Open Access Study protocol

Empowerment of disability benefit claimants through an interactive website: design of a randomized controlled trial

David Samoocha123, David J Bruinvels123*, Johannes R Anema12, Romy Steenbeek4 and Allard J van der Beek12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Research Center for Insurance Medicine AMC-UWV-VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 IGER, the Amsterdam Interdisciplinary Centre of Law and Health, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 TNO Quality of Life, Work and Employment, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2009, 9:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-9-23

Published: 10 May 2009

Abstract

Background

Individuals claiming a disability benefit after long-term sickness absence, have to undergo medical disability assessments. These assessments, often carried out by specialized physicians, can be complicated by wrong expectations or defensive attitudes of disability benefit claimants. It is hypothesized that empowerment of these claimants will enhance the physician-patient relationship by shifting claimants from a passive role to a more active and constructive role during disability assessments. Furthermore, empowerment of claimants may lead to a more realistic expectation and acceptance of the assessment outcome among claimants and may lead to a more accurate assessment by the physician.

Methods/Design

In a two-armed randomized controlled trial (RCT), 230 claimants will be randomized to either the intervention or control group. For the intervention group, an interactive website was designed http://www.wiagesprek.nl webcite using an Intervention Mapping procedure. This website was tested during a pilot study among 51 claimants. The final version of the website consists of five interactive modules, in which claimants will be prepared and empowered step-by-step, prior to their upcoming disability assessment. Other website components are a forum, a personal health record, a personal diary, and information on disability assessment procedures, return to work, and coping with disease and work disability. Subjects from the control group will be directed to a website with commonly available information only.

Approximately two weeks prior to their disability assessment, disability claimants will be recruited through the Dutch Workers Insurance Authority (UWV). Outcomes will be assessed at five occasions: directly after recruitment (baseline), prior to disability assessment, directly after disability assessment as well as 6 and 16 weeks after the assessment. The study's primary outcome is empowerment, measured with the Vrijbaan questionnaire. Secondary outcomes include claimants' satisfaction, perceived justice, coping strategy, and knowledge. A process evaluation will also be conducted.

Discussion

This study evaluates the effectiveness of an interactive website aimed at empowerment of disability claimants. It is hypothesized that by increasing empowerment, the physician-patient relationship may be enhanced and claimants' satisfaction and perceived justice can be improved. Results are expected in 2010.

Trial registration

NTR-1414