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Open Access Research article

The feasibility of a web-based counselling program for occupational physicians and employees on sick leave due to back or neck pain

Tanja de Jong12*, Judith Heinrich12, Birgitte M Blatter12, Johannes R Anema34 and Allard J van der Beek134

Author Affiliations

1 Body@Work, Research Center on Physical Activity, Work and Health TNO-VUmc, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 TNO Quality of Life, Hoofddorp, the Netherlands

3 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute VUmc, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

4 Research Center for Insurance Medicine AMC-UWV-VUmc, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2009, 9:46  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-9-46

Published: 6 November 2009

Abstract

Background

The objective of this feasibility study was to gain insight into occupational physicians' (OPs) and employees' use of, and attitudes towards, 'Snelbeter' (Get Well Fast), a new web-based counselling program for employees on sick leave due to non-specific back or neck pain and their OPs.

Methods

Registered user information was collected from the website to get insight in the use of the program by employees (n = 24). Qualitative information was obtained through semi-structured in-depth interviews with 19 OPs and nine employees in order to get insight in the actual use of the provided information, the attitudes towards the program and possible improvements of the program.

Results

Actual use of the program among OPs was low. The majority of OPs, eight out of 11 (73%), never or only occasionally signed in. The greatest obstacle for OPs to use the program was the low number of eligible employees involved. Employees appreciated the program but their use was moderate. A small majority of the employees who used the program, 14 out of 24 (58%), opened 50% to 100% of the provided documents, a majority of the interviewed employees, seven out of nine (78%), used the provided information sometimes or regularly. The absence of personal contact was found to be a major barrier towards use of the program by employees.

Conclusion

Although both OPs and employees appreciated the idea of the program and employees appreciated using it, program utilization was moderate to low. The discussion section reveals that before implementation can be started to any extent, the program will need adaptations that make it more attractive to use. The program should be considered for both return to work (RTW) and the prevention of sick leave. Adding personal contact (e.g. involving physiotherapists) to the program may also be promising.