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1.  Dealing with sickness certification – a survey of problems and strategies among general practitioners and orthopaedic surgeons 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:273.
Background
In order to get sickness benefit a sick-listed person need a medical certificate issued by a physician; in Sweden after one week of self-certification. Physicians experience sick-listing tasks as problematic and conflicts may arise when patients regard themselves unable to work due to complaints that are hard to objectively verify for the physician. Most GPs and orthopaedic surgeons (OS) deal regularly with sick-listing issues in their daily practice. The aim of this study was to explore perceived problems and coping strategies related to tasks of sickness certification among general practitioners (GP) and orthopaedic surgeons (OS).
Methods
A cross-sectional study about sickness certification in two Swedish counties, with 673 participating GPs and 149 OSs, who answered a comprehensive questionnaire. Frequencies together with crude and adjusted (gender and working years) Odds ratios were calculated.
Results
A majority of the GPs and OSs experienced problems in sickness certification every week. To assess the patient's work ability, to handle situations when they and the patient had different opinions about the need for sickness absence, and to issue prolongation certificates when the previous was issued by another physician were reported as problematic by a majority in both groups. Both GPs and OSs prolonged sickness certifications due to waiting times in health care or at Social Insurance Office (SIO). To handle experienced problems they used different strategies; OSs issued sickness certificates without personal appointment more often than the GPs, who on the other hand reported having contact with SIO more often than the OSs. A higher rate of GPs experienced support from management and had a common strategy for handling sickness certification at the clinic than the OSs.
Conclusion
Most GPs and OSs handled sickness certification weekly and reported a variety of problems in relation to this task, generally GPs to a higher extent, and they used different coping strategies to handle the problems.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-273
PMCID: PMC2089078  PMID: 17910746
2.  Health care management of sickness certification tasks: results from two surveys to physicians 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:207.
Background
Health care in general and physicians in particular, play an important role in patients’ sickness certification processes. However, a lack of management within health care regarding how sickness certification is carried out has been identified in Sweden. A variety of interventions to increase the quality of sickness certification were introduced by the government and County Councils. Some of these measures were specifically aimed at strengthening health care management of sickness certification; e.g. policy making and management support. The aim was to describe to what extent physicians in different medical specialties had access to a joint policy regarding sickness certification in their clinical settings and experienced management support in carrying out sickness certification.
Method
A descriptive study, based on data from two cross-sectional questionnaires sent to all physicians in the Stockholm County regarding their sickness certification practice. Criteria for inclusion in this study were working in a clinical setting, being a board-certified specialist, <65 years of age, and having sickness certification consultations at least a few times a year. These criteria were met by 2497 physicians in 2004 and 2204 physicians in 2008. Proportions were calculated regarding access to policy and management support, stratified according to medical specialty.
Results
The proportions of physicians working in clinical settings with a well-established policy regarding sickness certification were generally low both in 2004 and 2008, but varied greatly between different types of medical specialties (from 6.1% to 46.9%). Also, reports of access to substantial management support regarding sickness certification varied greatly between medical specialties (from 10.5% to 48.8%). More than one third of the physicians reported having no such management support.
Conclusions
Most physicians did not work in a clinical setting with a well-established policy on sickness certification tasks, nor did they experience substantial support from their manager. The results indicate a need of strengthening health care management of sickness certification tasks in order to better support physicians in these tasks.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-207
PMCID: PMC3671141  PMID: 23701711
Health care management; Sickness certification practice; Sick leave; Physician
3.  Psychiatrists′ work with sickness certification: frequency, experiences and severity of the certification tasks in a national survey in Sweden 
Background
Many psychiatrists are involved in sickness certification of their patients; however, there is very limited knowledge about this aspect of their work. The objective of this study was to explore frequencies of problematic issues in the sickness certification tasks and experiences of severity regarding these problematic issues among psychiatrists.
Methods
A cross-sectional nationwide questionnaire study to all physicians in Sweden. The 579 specialists in psychiatry who answered the questionnaire, were under 65 years of age, worked mainly in psychiatric care, and had consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week were included.
Results
The frequency of problematic sickness certification consultations a few times per year or more often was considered by 87.3% of the psychiatrists; 11.7% handle such cases at least once a week. A majority (60.9%) reported ‘not having enough time with the patient’ at least once a week. The psychiatrists had access to several categories of professionals in their daily work. More than one third certified unnecessarily long sick-leave periods at least once a month due to waiting times for Social Insurance Office investigations or for treatments or investigations within health care.
Conclusion
The majority found it problematic to assess the level and duration of work incapacity, but also other types of problems like unnecessarily long sick-leave periods due to different types of waiting times. The findings have implications for different kinds of organisational and managerial support and training in sickness certification issues, like guidance to assess the level and duration of work incapacity.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-362
PMCID: PMC3480832  PMID: 23075202
Sickness certification; Psychiatry; Sick leave; Physician
4.  Sickness-certification practice in different clinical settings; a survey of all physicians in a country 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:752.
Background
How physicians handle sickness-certification is essential in the sickness-absence process. Few studies have focused this task of physicians' daily work. Most previous studies have only included general practitioners. However, a previous study indicated that this is a common task also among other physicians. The aim of this study was to gain detailed knowledge about physicians' work with sickness-certification and of the problems they experience in this work.
Methods
A comprehensive questionnaire regarding sickness-certification practice was sent home to all physicians living and working in Sweden (N = 36,898; response rate: 61%). This study included physicians aged <65 years who had sickness-certification consultations at least a few times a year (n = 14,210). Descriptive statistics were calculated and odds ratios (OR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI) were estimated for having different types of related problems, stratified on clinical settings, using physicians working in internal medicine as reference group.
Results
Sickness-certification consultations were frequent; 67% of all physicians had such, and of those, 83% had that at least once a week. The proportion who had such consultations >5 times a week varied between clinical settings; from 3% in dermatology to 79% in orthopaedics; and was 43% in primary health care. The OR for finding sickness-certification tasks problematic was highest among the physicians working in primary health care (OR 3.3; CI 2.9-3.7) and rheumatology clinics (OR 2.6; CI 1.9-3.5). About 60% found it problematic to assess patients' work capacity and to provide a prognosis regarding the duration of work incapacity.
Conclusions
So far, most interventions regarding physicians' sickness-certification practices have been targeted towards primary health care and general practitioners. Our results indicate that the ORs for finding these tasks problematic were highest in primary health care. Nevertheless, physicians in some other clinical settings more often have such consultations and many of them also find these tasks problematic, e.g. in rheumatology, neurology, psychiatry, and orthopaedic clinics. Thus, the results indicate that much can be gained through focusing on physicians in other types of clinics as well, when planning interventions to improve sickness-certification practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-752
PMCID: PMC3016384  PMID: 21129227
5.  Reasons for and factors associated with issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary: results from a nationwide survey of physicians 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:478.
Background
Physicians’ work with sickness certifications is an understudied field. Physicians’ experience of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary has been previous reported. However, the extent and frequency of such sickness certification is largely unknown. The aims of this study were: a) to explore the frequency of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary among physicians working in different clinical settings; b) to examine main reasons for issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary; and c) to examine factors associated with unnecessary issued sickness certificates.
Methods
In 2008, all physicians living and working in Sweden (a total of 36,898) were sent an invitation to participate in a questionnaire study concerning their sick-listing practices. A total of 22,349 (60.6%) returned the questionnaire. In the current study, physicians reporting handling sickness certification consultations at least weekly were included in the analyses, a total of 12,348.
Results
The proportion of physicians reporting issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary varied greatly between different types of clinics, with the highest frequency among those working at: occupational medicine, orthopedic, primary health care, and psychiatry clinics; and lowest among those working in: eye, dermatology, ear/nose/throat, oncology, surgery, and infection clinics. Logistic analyses showed that sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to limitations in the health care system was particularly common among physicians working at occupational medicine, orthopedic, and primary health care clinics. Sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to patient-related factors was much more common among physicians working at psychiatric clinics. In addition to differences between clinics, frequency of sickness certificates issued for longer periods than necessary varied by age, physicians’ experiences of different situations, and perceived problems.
Conclusions
This study showed that physicians issued sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary quite frequently at some types of clinics. Differences between clinics were to a large extent associated with frequency of problems, lack of time, delicate interactions with patients, and need for more competence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-478
PMCID: PMC3691717  PMID: 23679866
Sick leave; Sickness certification; Insurance medicine; Physician
6.  Frequency and nature of problems associated with sickness certification tasks: A cross-sectional questionnaire study of 5455 physicians 
Objective
To study the frequency and nature of problems associated with physicians’ sickness certification practices.
Design
Cross-sectional questionnaire study.
Setting
Stockholm and Östergötland Counties in Sweden.
Subjects
Physicians aged ≤64 years, n =7665, response rate 71% (n =5455).
Main outcome measures
The frequency of consultations involving sickness certification, the frequency and nature of problems related to sickness certification.
Results
A total of 74% (n =4019) of the respondents had consultations including sickness certification at least a few times a year. About half of these physicians had sickness certification cases at least six times a week, and 1 out of 10 (9.4%) had this more than 20 times a week. The items that the highest percentage of physicians rated as very or fairly problematic included: handling conflicts with patients over certification, assessing work ability, estimating optimal length and degree of absence, and managing prolongation of sick leave initially certified by another physician. There were large differences in frequency and nature of problems between different types of clinics/practices. General practitioners had the highest frequency of problems concerning sickness certification while the lowest was found among specialists in internal medicine and surgery.
Conclusion
Sickness certification should be recognized as an important task also for physicians other than general practitioners. The physicians experienced problems with numerous tasks related to sickness certification and these varied considerably between types of clinics. The high rate of problems experienced may have consequences for the physicians’ work situation, for patients, and for society.
doi:10.1080/02813430701430854
PMCID: PMC3379778  PMID: 17846937
Family practice; healthcare; insurance medicine; physicians; sickness certification; sick leave
7.  Use and usefulness of guidelines for sickness certification: results from a national survey of all general practitioners in Sweden 
BMJ Open  2011;1(2):e000303.
Objectives
Diagnoses-specific sickness certification guidelines were recently introduced in Sweden. The aim of this study was to investigate to which extent general practitioners (GPs) used these guidelines and how useful they found them, 1 year after introduction.
Design
A cross-sectional questionnaire study. A comprehensive questionnaire about sickness certification practices in 2008 was sent to all physicians living and working in Sweden (n=36 898, response rate 60.6%). In all, 19.7% (n=4394) of the responders worked as GPs.
Setting
Primary healthcare in all Sweden.
Participants
The participating GPs who had consultations concerning sickness certification at least a few times a year (n=4278, 97%).
Main outcome measures
Descriptive statistics and prevalence ratios for the 11 questionnaire items about the use and usefulness of the sickness certification guidelines.
Results
A majority (76.2%) of the GPs reported that they used the guidelines. In addition, 65.4% and 43.5% of those GPs reported that the guidelines had facilitated their contacts with patients and social insurance officers, respectively. The guidelines also helped nearly one-third (31.5%) of the GPs to develop their competence and improve the quality of their management of sickness certification consultations (33.5%). About half experienced some problems when using the guidelines and 43.7% wanted better competence in using them. A larger proportion of non-specialists and of GPs with fewer sickness certification consultations had benefitted from the guidelines.
Conclusions
The national sickness certification guidelines implemented in Sweden were widely used by GPs already a year after introduction. Also, the GPs consider the guidelines useful in several respects, for example, in patient contacts and for competence development.
Article summary
Article focus
Sweden recently introduced national sickness certification guidelines. We investigated:
To what extent did the general practitioners use them 1 year later?
How useful did the general practitioners find them?
Key messages
Already after 1 year, most general practitioners used the guidelines and benefited extensively from them
Two-thirds of the general practitioners reported that the guidelines had facilitated their patient contacts and one-third that it facilitated their contacts with social insurance, other healthcare staff and employers
One-third stated that the guidelines had been helpful in competence development and improved the quality of their management of sickness certification cases
Strengths and limitations of this study
Strengths were the large study group and that all general practitioners in Sweden were included. Also, internationally this is the, so far, without comparison largest study of general practitioner's sickness certification practices. However, the non-response rate of 39% was a limitation, and we have no way of knowing if the non-responders differed with regard to use of the guidelines. However, only 11 of the 163 items in the questionnaire concerned the guidelines, why there is no reason to believe that no response was related to use of the guidelines.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000303
PMCID: PMC3244659  PMID: 22189350
8.  Sickness certification as a complex professional and collaborative activity - a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:702.
Background
Physicians have an important but problematic task to issue sickness certifications. A manifold of studies have identified a wide spectrum of medical and insurance-related problems in sickness certification. Despite educational efforts aiming to improve physicians’ knowledge of social insurance medicine there are no signs of reduction of these problems. We hypothesised that the quality deficits is not only due to lack of knowledge among issuing physicians. The aim of the study was to explore physicians’ challenges when handling sickness certification in relation to their professional roles as physicians and to their interaction with different stakeholders.
Methods
One hundred seventy-seven physicians in Stockholm County, Sweden, participated in a sick-listing audit program. Participants identified challenges in handling sick-leave issues and formulated action plans for improvement. Challenges and responsible stakeholders were identified in the action plans. To deepen the understanding facilitators of the program were interviewed. A qualitative content analysis was performed exploring challenge categories and categories of stakeholders with responsibility to initiate actions to improve the quality of the sick-listing process. The challenge categories were then related by their content to professional competence roles in accord with the Canadian Medical Education Directions for Specialists (CanMEDS) framework and to the stakeholder categories.
Results
Seven categories of challenges were identified. Practitioner patient interaction, Work capacity assessment, Interaction with the Social Insurance Administration, The patient’s workplace and the labour market, Sick-listing practice, Collaboration and resource allocation within the Health Care System, Leadership and routines at the Health Care Unit. The challenges were related to all seven CanMEDS roles. Five categories of stakeholders were identified and several stakeholders were involved in each challenge category.
Conclusions
Physicians performing sickness certification tasks experience a complex variety of challenges. From physician perspective actions to handle these need to be initiated in interaction with both medical and non-medical stakeholders. The relation between the challenges and a well-established professional competence framework revealed a complex pattern. Thus, from a public health perspective, educational activities aimed to improve the sick-listing process should address all physician competences including identification and interaction with stakeholders, and not just knowledge of social insurance medicine.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-702
PMCID: PMC3499228  PMID: 22928773
9.  Frequency and severity of problems that general practitioners experience regarding sickness certification 
Objective
Tasks involved in sickness certification constitute potential problems for physicians. The objective in this study was to obtain more detailed knowledge about the problems that general practitioners (GPs) experience in sickness certification cases, specifically regarding reasons for issuing unnecessarily long sick-leave periods.
Design
A cross-sectional national questionnaire study. Setting. Primary health care in Sweden.
Subjects
The 2516 general practitioners (GPs), below 65 years of age, who had consultations involving sickness certification every week. This makes it the by far largest such study worldwide. The response rate among GPs was 59.9%.
Results
Once a week, half of the GPs (54.5%) found it problematic to handle sickness certification, and one-fourth (25.9%) had a patient who wanted to be sickness absent for some reason other than medical work incapacity. Issues rated as problematic by many GPs concerned assessing work capacity, prognosticating the duration of incapacity, handling situations in which the GP and the patient had different opinions on the need for sick leave, and managing the two roles as physician for the patient and medical expert in writing certificates for other authorities. Main reasons for certifying unnecessarily long sick-leave periods were long waiting times in health care and in other organizations, and younger and male GPs more often reported doing this to avoid conflicts with the patient.
Conclusion
A majority of the GPs found sickness certification problematic. Most problems were related to professional competence in insurance medicine. Better possibilities to develop, maintain, and practise such professionalism are warranted.
doi:10.3109/02813432.2011.628235
PMCID: PMC3308465  PMID: 22126222
GP; physicians; primary health care; sickness certification; sick leave
10.  General practitioners' experiences with sickness certification: a comparison of survey data from Sweden and Norway 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:10.
Background
In most countries with sickness insurance systems, general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the sickness-absence process. Previous studies have indicated that GPs experience several tasks and situations related to sickness certification consultations as problematic. The fact that the organization of primary health care and social insurance systems differ between countries may influence both GPs' experiences and certification. The aim of the present study was to gain more knowledge of GPs' experiences of sickness certification, by comparing data from Sweden and Norway, regarding frequencies and aspects of sickness certification found to be problematic.
Methods
Statistical analyses of cross-sectional survey data of sickness certification by GPs in Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, all GPs were included, with 3949 (60.6%) responding. In Norway, a representative sample of GPs was included, with 221 (66.5%) responding.
Results
Most GPs reported having consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week; 95% of the GPs in Sweden and 99% of the GPs in Norway. A majority found such tasks problematic; 60% of the GPs in Sweden and 53% in Norway. In a logistic regression, having a higher frequency of sickness certification consultations was associated with a higher risk of experiencing them as problematic, in both countries. A higher rate of GPs in Sweden than in Norway reported meeting patients wanting a sickness certification without a medical reason. GPs in Sweden found it more problematic to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of sick leave with patients and to issue a prolongation of a sick-leave period initiated by another physician. GPs in Norway more often worried that patients would go to another physician if they did not issue a certificate, and a higher proportion of Norwegian GPs found it problematic to handle situations where they and their patient disagreed on the need for sick leave.
Conclusions
The study confirms that many GPs experience sickness absence consultations as problematic. However, there were differences between the two countries in GPs' experiences, which may be linked to differences in social security regulations and the organization of GP services. Possible causes and consequences of national differences should be addressed in future studies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-10
PMCID: PMC3320536  PMID: 22375615
11.  Sick-listed employees with severe medically unexplained physical symptoms: burden or routine for the occupational health physician? A cross sectional study 
Background
The two primary objectives of this study were to the assess consultation load of occupational health physicians (OHPs), and their difficulties and needs with regard to their sickness certification tasks in sick-listed employees with severe medical unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS). Third objective was to determine which disease-, patient-, doctor- and practice-related factors are associated with the difficulties and needs of the OHPs.
Methods
In this cross-sectional study, 43 participating OHPs from 5 group practices assessed 489 sick-listed employees with and without severe MUPS. The OHPs filled in a questionnaire about difficulties concerning sickness certification tasks, consultation time, their needs with regard to consultation with or referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist, and communication with GPs. The OHPs also completed a questionnaire about their personal characteristics.
Results
OHPs only experienced task difficulties in employees with severe MUPS in relation to their communication with the treating physician. This only occured in cases in which the OHP attributed the physical symptoms to somatoform causes. If they attributed the physical symptoms to mental causes, the OHPs reported a need to consultate a psychiatrist about the diagnosis and treatment.
Conclusions
OHPs experience few difficulties with their sickness certification tasks and consultation load concerning employees with severe MUPS. However, they encounter problems if the diagnostic uncertainties of the treating physician interfere with the return to work process. OHPs have a need for psychiatric expertise whenever they are uncertain about the psychiatric causes of a delayed return to work process. We recommend further training programs for OHPs. They should also have more opportunity for consultation and referral to a psychiatrist, and their communication with treating physicians should be improved.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-305
PMCID: PMC2991306  PMID: 21059232
12.  Problems in sickness certification of patients: A qualitative study on views of 26 physicians in Sweden 
Objective
To identify what problems physicians experience in sickness certification of patients.
Design
Qualitative analyses of data from six focus-group discussions.
Setting
Four counties in different regions of Sweden.
Participants
Twenty-six physicians strategically selected to achieve variation with regard to sex, geographical location, urban/rural area, and type of clinic.
Results
The problems involved four areas: society and the social insurance system, the organization of healthcare, the performance of other actors in the system, and the physicians’ working situation. In all areas the problems also involved manager issues such as overall leadership, organization of healthcare, and existing incentives and support systems for physicians’ handling of patients’ sickness certification. Many physicians described feelings of fatigue and a lack of pride in their work with sickness certification tasks, as they believed they contributed to unnecessary sickness absence and to medicalization of patients’ non-medical problems.
Conclusions
The problems identified have negative consequences both for patients and for the well-being of physicians. Many of the problems seem related to inadequate leadership and management of sickness certification issues. Therefore, they cannot be handled merely by training of physicians, which has so far been the main intervention in this area. They also have to be addressed on manager levels within healthcare. Further research is needed on how physicians cope with the problems identified and on managers’ strategies and responsibilities in relation to these problems. If the complexity of the problems is not recognized, there is a risk that inadequate actions will be taken to solve them.
doi:10.1080/02813430701747695
PMCID: PMC3406623  PMID: 18297559
Clinical practice; family practice; leadership; physicians; quality of health care; sickness certification; sick leave; working conditions
13.  Isolated specialist or system integrated physician – different views on sickness certification among orthopaedic surgeons: an interview study 
Background
Sickness certification is a frequent and sometimes problematic task for orthopaedic surgeons.
Our aim was to explore how orthopaedic surgeons view their sick-listing commission and sick-listing practice.
Methods
Semi-structured interviews with seventeen orthopaedic surgeons from five orthopaedic clinics in four Swedish counties. The focus was on the experiences of these physicians in relation to handling of sickness certification. Phenomenographic analysis was performed to reveal differences in existing views.
Results
The orthopaedic surgeons' views on sick-listing seemed mainly to be a consequence of how they perceived their role in the healthcare system. Three categories were found: The "isolated specialists", whose work and responsibilities were confined to the orthopaedic clinic, and did not really include sickness certification; the "orthopaedic advisers", who saw themselves mainly as advice-givers in the general health care system and perceived sickness certification as part of their job; the "system-integrated physicians", who perceived the orthopaedic clinic as one part of the healthcare system and whose ultimate goal was to get the patient well functioning in her life again with regained work ability, seeing sick-listing as one of the instruments to achieve this. Some informants described difficulties in handling conflicting opinions with patients in relation to the need for sick-leave.
Conclusion
Orthopaedic surgeons certify a large proportion of total sickness benefits. Some orthopaedic surgeons may certify sickness benefits sub-optimally for patients and society due to a narrow view of their role in the health care system or due to poor skills in handling discordant opinions with the patient. This problem can be addressed at the level of the individual physician and at the system level.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-273
PMCID: PMC2651137  PMID: 19105821
14.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
doi:10.2147/NSS.S19649
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
15.  Physicians' messages in problematic sickness certification: a narrative analysis of case reports 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:18.
Background
Many physicians find sickness certification tasks problematic. There is some knowledge about situations that are experienced as problematic, whereas less is understood about how physicians respond to the problems they face. One way to acquire such knowledge is to consider "reflection-in-action", aspects of which are expressed in the physician's interpretation of the patient's story. The aim of this study was to gain knowledge about the meaning content of case reports about problematic sickness certification. Specifically, we looked for possible messages to the colleagues intended to read the reports.
Methods
A narrative approach was used to analyse reports about problematic sickness certification cases that had been written by GPs and occupational health service physicians as part of a sickness insurance course. The analysis included elements from both thematic and structural analysis. Nineteen case reports were used in the actual analysis and 25 in the validation of the results. Main narrative qualities and structural features of the written case reports were explored.
Results
Five types of messages were identified in the case reports, here classified as "a call for help", "a call for understanding", "hidden worries", "in my opinion", and "appearing neutral". In the reports, the physicians tried to achieve neutrality in their writing, and the patients' stories tended to be interpreted within a traditional biomedical framework. In some cases there was an open request for help, in others it was not obvious that the physician had any problems. Overall, the messages were about having problems as such, rather than the specific features of the problems.
Conclusions
The case reports clearly demonstrated different ways of writing about problems that arise during sickness certification, from being neutral and not mentioning the problems to being emotionally involved and asking for help. The general character of the messages suggests that they are also relevant for case reports in problematic areas other than sickness certification. If pertinent relationships can be found between reflection-in-practice and the narrative writing about practice, they will provide an approach to further research concerning consultations perceived as problematic and also to medical education.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-18
PMCID: PMC3079654  PMID: 21481257
16.  The association of patient's family, leisure time, and work situation with sickness certification in primary care in Sweden 
Objective
To investigate associations between patients’ family, leisure time, and work-related factors and physicians’ measure as to whether or not to sickness certify the patient in connection with the consultation.
Design
Questionnaire survey to physicians in general practice and their patients.
Setting
General practitioners (GPs) and their patients in Örebro county, Sweden.
Subjects
A total of 474 patient–physician consultations from 65 physicians with up to 10 patients each.
Main outcome measure
Whether or not a sickness certificate was issued.
Results
Among work-related factors, high “authority over decisions” and high “social support” correlated with 30% or more reduced sickness certification probability. Worrying about becoming ill or being injured from work correlates with almost doubled sickness certification risk. Among family and leisure-time variables, only living with a common law partner and having no children correlated with increased sickness certification risk. In addition to analyses of the whole group (all diagnoses), the two largest diagnostic subgroups, infectious diseases and musculoskeletal diseases, were examined. For the infectious diseases subgroup, high demands in work correlated with increased sickness certification risk, while in the musculoskeletal diseases subgroup, worry about work-related injury or illness was the main factor correlating with increased risk for sickness certification.
Conclusions
Work-related factors were the most important factors related to sickness certification in this study. Determinants for sickness certification risk differed between diagnostic subgroups.
doi:10.3109/02813431003765265
PMCID: PMC3442321  PMID: 20429740
Authority over decisions; family medicine; family practice; sick leave; social support; work capacity; work demands; work strain
17.  What physicians want to learn about sickness certification: analyses of questionnaire data from 4019 physicians 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:61.
Background
Sickness absence is a problem in many Western countries. Physicians have an essential role in sickness certification of patients, which is often recommended in health care but may have side effects. Despite the potentially harming impact of sickness absence, physicians have very limited training in insurance medicine, and there is little research on sickness certification practices. Our aim was to ascertain what knowledge and skills physicians in different clinical settings feel they need in order to improve their competence in sickness certification.
Methods
The data for analysis were collected in 2004 in Stockholm and Östergötland Counties, Sweden, by use of a comprehensive questionnaire about sickness certification issues, which was sent to 7,665 physicians aged ≤ 64 years. The response rate was 71% (n = 5455). Analyses of association and factor analysis were applied to the various aspects of competence to establish a skills index and a knowledge index, which were used to compare the results for physicians in different clinical settings.
Results
Most physicians stated they needed more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification, e.g. regarding how to assess work capacity (44%) and optimal length and degree of sickness absence (50%), and information about aspects of the social insurance system (43-63%). Few (20%) reported needing to know more about issuing sickness certificates. The index scores varied substantially between different clinical settings, and this disparity remained after adjustment for sex, years in practice, workplace policy, and support from management. Scores on the skills index were significantly higher for physicians in primary care than for those working in other areas.
Conclusions
A majority of physicians in most types of clinics/practices, not only primary care, indicated the need for more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification cases. Increased knowledge and skills are needed in order to protect both the health and equity of patients. However, few physicians stated that they needed more skills in filling out sickness certificates, which contradicts previous findings about such documents being of poor quality and suggests that factors other than mere knowledge and skills are involved.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-61
PMCID: PMC2829004  PMID: 20144230
18.  A Cluster-Randomised Trial Evaluating an Intervention for Patients with Stress-Related Mental Disorders and Sick Leave in Primary Care 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(6):e26.
Objective:
Mental health problems often affect functioning to such an extent that they result in sick leave. The worldwide reported prevalence of mental health problems in the working population is 10%–18%. In developed countries, mental health problems are one of the main grounds for receiving disability benefits. In up to 90% of cases the cause is stress-related, and health-care utilisation is mainly restricted to primary care. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of our Minimal Intervention for Stress-related mental disorders with Sick leave (MISS) in primary care, which is intended to reduce sick leave and prevent chronicity of symptoms.
Design:
Cluster-randomised controlled educational trial.
Setting:
Primary health-care practices in the Amsterdam area, The Netherlands.
Participants:
A total of 433 patients (MISS n = 227, usual care [UC] n = 206) with sick leave and self-reported elevated level of distress.
Interventions:
Forty-six primary care physicians were randomised to either receive training in the MISS or to provide UC. Eligible patients were screened by mail.
Outcome Measures:
The primary outcome measure was duration of sick leave until lasting full return to work. The secondary outcomes were levels of self-reported distress, depression, anxiety, and somatisation.
Results:
No superior effect of the MISS was found on duration of sick leave (hazard ratio 1.06, 95% confidence interval 0.87–1.29) nor on severity of self-reported symptoms.
Conclusions:
We found no evidence that the MISS is more effective than UC in our study sample of distressed patients. Continuing research should focus on the potential beneficial effects of the MISS; we need to investigate which elements of the intervention might be useful and which elements should be adjusted to make the MISS effective.
Editorial Commentary
Background: People who take sick leave from work as a result of mental health problems very often report that the cause is stress-related. Although stress-related sick leave imposes a significant burden on individuals and economies, few evidence-based therapies exist to prevent sick leave in people who are experiencing stress-related mental health problems. The researchers carrying out this study wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for stress-related mental health disorders amongst people who had been on sick leave for less than three months. The intervention involved short training sessions for primary health-care practitioners, during which the practitioners were taught how to diagnose stress-related problems; how to provide information to patients and encourage their recovery and active return to work; and how to give advice and monitor patients' recovery. The researchers carried out a cluster-randomized trial evaluating this training program, in which 46 primary care practitioners were assigned by chance to receive either the training program or to practice usual care. Over the course of the trial, 433 patients with elevated levels of distress and sick leave were included in the study, 227 of whom were treated by practitioners receiving the training program and 206 of whom received usual care. These patients were followed up for 12 months and the primary outcome studied in the trial was the length of sick leave taken until full return to work. Secondary outcome measures included patients' reports of distress, depression, and other symptoms as recorded using specific questionnaires.
What the trial shows: In the trial, data on the primary outcome measure was available for 87% of the patients treated by practitioners receiving the training intervention and 84% of the patients receiving usual care. When these outcomes were analyzed, there was no evidence of a benefit of the training program on amount of sick leave taken. Over the course of the study, the severity of patients' self-reported symptoms fell in both groups, but there was no significant difference in symptom severity between the two groups of patients. A subgroup analysis suggested that more practitioners in the intervention group recognized patients as having stress-related mental health problems. Among the group of patients who were diagnosed as having stress-related mental health problems, those who were treated by practitioners in the intervention group seemed to return to work slightly more quickly than those in the usual care group. However, it is not easy to interpret the findings of this secondary analysis.
Strengths and limitations: Strengths of this study include the procedures for cluster randomization, in which primary care practitioners were randomized, rather than patients. This process ensures that only patients assigned to the intervention arm receive the benefits of the intervention, and avoids “contamination” between intervention and control groups. A further strength includes the blinding of researchers who were collecting data to the intervention that each practitioner had received. The findings of the study, however, are difficult to interpret. No effect of the training intervention was found on the study's primary outcome measure; it is possible that the training intervention does indeed have some benefit, but the benefit may not have been found in this particular trial because of the inclusion of patients with a very wide range of problems; in addition the practitioners may have not had the time or ability to apply what they learnt in the training program.
Contribution to the evidence: Very little evidence exists regarding the effects of training interventions for improving care of patients with stress-related mental health problems. The findings of this trial support those of another study carried out in a primary care setting, which found that training interventions do not seem to reduce length of sick leave. However, another study carried out in an occupational health-care setting, in which patients included in the trial had been recognised as having stress-related mental disorders, did find some benefit of an intervention program.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020026
PMCID: PMC1885369  PMID: 17549228
19.  Sickness certificates in Sweden: did the new guidelines improve their quality? 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:907.
Background
Long-term sickness absence is high in many Western countries. In Sweden and many other countries, decisions on entitlement to sickness benefits and return to work measures are based on information provided by physicians in sickness certificates. The quality demands, as stressed by the Swedish sick leave guidelines from 2008, included accurate sickness certificates with assessment of functioning clearly documented. This study aims to compare quality of sickness certificates between 2007 and 2009 in Östergötland County, Sweden. Quality is defined in terms of descriptions of functioning with the use of activity and participation according to WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), and in prescriptions of early rehabilitation.
Methods
During two weeks in 2007 and four weeks in 2009, all certificates had been collected upon arrival to the social insurance office in Östergötland County, Sweden. Four hundred seventy-five new certificates were included in 2007 and 501 in 2009. Prolongations of sick leave were included until the last date of sick listing. Free text on functioning was analysed deductively using the ICF framework, and placed into categories (body functions/structures, activity, participation, no description) for statistical analysis.
Results
The majority of the certificates were issued for musculoskeletal diseases or mental disorders. Text on functioning could be classified into the components of ICF in 65% and 78% of sickness certificates issued in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Descriptions according to body components such as “sensations of pain” or “emotional functions” were given in 58% of the certificates from 2007 and in 65% from 2009. The activity component, for example “walking” or “handling stress”, was more frequent in certificates issued in 2009 compared with 2007 (33% versus 26%). Prescriptions of early rehabilitation increased from 27% in 2007 to 35% in 2009, primarily due to more counseling.
Conclusions
An improvement of the quality between certificates collected in 2007 and 2009 was demonstrated in Östergötland County, Sweden. The certificates from 2009 provided more information linkable to ICF and incorporated an increased use of activity limitations when describing patients’ functioning. Still, activity limitations and prescriptions of early rehabilitation were only present in one-third of the sickness certificates.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-907
PMCID: PMC3503852  PMID: 23101724
Sickness certificates; International Classification of Functioning; Disability and Health (ICF); Rehabilitation; Sick leave; Physicians; Functioning; Work ability; Sweden
20.  Sick but yet at work. An empirical study of sickness presenteeism 
STUDY OBJECTIVE—The study is an empirical investigation of sickness presenteeism in relation to occupation, irreplaceability, ill health, sickness absenteeism, personal income, and slimmed down organisation.
DESIGN—Cross sectional design.
SETTING—Swedish workforce.
PARTICIPANTS—The study group comprised a stratified subsample of 3801 employed persons working at the time of the survey, interviewed by telephone in conjunction with Statistics Sweden's labour market surveys of August and September 1997. The response rate was 87 per cent.
MAIN RESULTS—A third of the persons in the total material reported that they had gone to work two or more times during the preceding year despite the feeling that, in the light of their perceived state of health, they should have taken sick leave. The highest presenteeism is largely to be found in the care and welfare and education sectors (nursing and midwifery professionals, registered nurses, nursing home aides, compulsory school teachers and preschool/primary educationalists. All these groups work in sectors that have faced personnel cutbacks during the 1990s). The risk ratio (odds ratio (OR)) for sickness presenteeism in the group that has to re-do work remaining after a period of absence through sickness is 2.29 (95% CI 1.79, 2.93). High proportions of persons with upper back/neck pain and fatigue/slightly depressed are among those with high presenteeism (p< 0.001). Occupational groups with high sickness presenteeism show high sickness absenteeism (ρ = 0.38; p<.01) and the hypothesis on level of pay and sickness presenteeism is also supported (ρ = −0.22; p<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS—Members of occupational groups whose everyday tasks are to provide care or welfare services, or teach or instruct, have a substantially increased risk of being at work when sick. The link between difficulties in replacement or finding a stand in and sickness presenteeism is confirmed by study results. The categories with high sickness presenteeism experience symptoms more often than those without presenteeism. The most common combination is low monthly income, high sickness absenteeism and high sickness presenteeism.


Keywords: sickness presenteeism; sickness absenteeism; ill health
doi:10.1136/jech.54.7.502
PMCID: PMC1731716  PMID: 10846192
21.  Entitlement to Sickness Benefits in Sweden: The Social Insurance Officers Experiences 
Background:
Social insurance offices (SIOs) handle a wide range of complex assessments of the entitlement to sickness benefits for an increasing number of clients on sick leave and consequently, the demands on the SIOs have increased considerably.
Aim:
To gain deeper knowledge of the problems experienced by the SIOs in their work associated with entitlement to sickness benefits.
Method:
A descriptive and explorative qualitative approach was used to analyse data from two focus-group interviews, including six participants in each group.
Results:
The participants discussed different dilemmas in regard to; physicians’ responsibility for issuing sickness certificates, interactions with the insured individuals, disclosure of decisions, communications with medical consultants, documentation of sickness benefit claims, threats in the workplace, as well as their own competence. The SIOs regarded incomplete information on sickness certificates as a main problem, because they frequently had to contact the client and the physicians who issued the certificates in order to obtain further details, leading to delays in the decision-making whether to grant sickness benefits.
Conclusions:
More knowledge regarding SIOs work is required to improve the methods used in the sickness insurance system and to ensure adequate training of new staff members.
PMCID: PMC3091338  PMID: 21572827
medical consultants; sickness benefit; social insurance officer; assessment; client
22.  Multidisciplinary Collaborative Care for Depressive Disorder in the Occupational Health Setting: design of a randomised controlled trial and cost-effectiveness study 
Background
Major depressive disorder (MDD) has major consequences for both patients and society, particularly in terms of needlessly long sick leave and reduced functioning. Although evidence-based treatments for MDD are available, they show disappointing results when implemented in daily practice. A focus on work is also lacking in the treatment of depressive disorder as well as communication of general practitioners (GPs) and other health care professionals with occupational physicians (OPs). The OP may play a more important role in the recovery of patients with MDD. Purpose of the present study is to tackle these obstacles by applying a collaborative care model, which has proven to be effective in the USA, with a focus on return to work (RTW). From a societal perspective, the (cost)effectiveness of this collaborative care treatment, as a way of transmural care, will be evaluated in depressed patients on sick leave in the occupational health setting.
Methods/Design
A randomised controlled trial in which the treatment of MDD in the occupational health setting will be evaluated in the Netherlands. A transmural collaborative care model, including Problem Solving Treatment (PST), a workplace intervention, antidepressant medication and manual guided self-help will be compared with care as usual (CAU). 126 Patients with MDD on sick leave between 4 and 12 weeks will be included in the study. Care in the intervention group will be provided by a multidisciplinary team of a trained OP-care manager and a consultant psychiatrist. The treatment is separated from the sickness certification. Data will be collected by means of questionnaires at baseline and at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after baseline. Primary outcome measure is reduction of depressive symptoms, secondary outcome measure is time to RTW, tertiary outcome measure is the cost effectiveness.
Discussion
The high burden of MDD and the high level of sickness absence among people with MDD contribute to the relevance of this study. The intervention is an innovative approach, with trained OPs in a new role as care managers in the treatment of MDD. If this intervention proves to be cost-effective, implementation will be very relevant for individual patients as well as for society.
Trial registration
ISRCTN78462860
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-99
PMCID: PMC2390533  PMID: 18457589
23.  Effectiveness of guideline-based care by occupational physicians on the return-to-work of workers with common mental disorders: design of a cluster-randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:193.
Background
Sickness absence due to common mental disorders (such as depression, anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder) is a problem in many Western countries. Long-term sickness absence leads to substantial societal and financial costs. In workers with common mental disorders, sickness absence costs are much higher than medical costs. In the Netherlands, a practice guideline was developed that promotes an activating approach of the occupational physician to establish faster return-to-work by enhancing the problem-solving capacity of workers, especially in relation to their work environment. Studies on this guideline indicate a promising association between guideline adherence and a shortened sick leave duration, but also minimal adherence to the guideline by occupational physicians. Therefore, this study evaluates the effect of guideline-based care on the full return-to-work of workers who are sick listed due to common mental disorders.
Methods/design
This is a two-armed cluster-randomised controlled trial with randomisation at the occupational physician level. During one year, occupational physicians in the intervention group receive innovative training to improve their guideline-based care whereas occupational physicians in the control group provide care as usual. A total of 232 workers, sick listed due to common mental disorders and counselled by participating occupational physicians, will be included. Data are collected via the registration system of the occupational health service, and by questionnaires at baseline and at 3, 6 and 12 months. The primary outcome is time to full return-to-work. Secondary outcomes are partial return-to-work, total number of sick leave days, symptoms, and workability. Personal and work characteristics are the prognostic measures. Additional measures are coping, self-efficacy, remoralization, personal experiences, satisfaction with consultations with the occupational physician and with contact with the supervisor, experiences and behaviour of the supervisor, and the extent of guideline adherence.
Discussion
If the results show that guideline-based care in fact leads to faster and sustainable return-to-work, this study will contribute to lowering personal, societal and financial costs.
Trial registration
ISRCTN86605310
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-193
PMCID: PMC3599838  PMID: 23496948
Common mental disorders; Sick leave; Return-to-work; Occupational health service; Occupational physicians; Guideline adherence; Guideline-based care
24.  Swedish social insurance officers' experiences of difficulties in assessing applications for disability pensions – an interview study 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:128.
Background
In this study the focus is on social insurance officers judging applications for disability pensions. The number of applications for disability pension increased during the late 1990s, which has resulted in an increasing number of disability pensions in Sweden. A more restrictive attitude towards the clients has however evolved, as societal costs have increased and governmental guidelines now focus on reducing costs. As a consequence, the quantitative and qualitative demands on social insurance officers when handling applications for disability pensions may have increased. The aim of this study was therefore to describe the social insurance officers' experiences of assessing applications for disability pensions after the government's introduction of stricter regulations.
Methods
Qualitative methodology was employed and a total of ten social insurance officers representing different experiences and ages were chosen. Open-ended interviews were performed with the ten social insurance officers. Data was analysed with inductive content analysis.
Results
Three themes could be identified as problematic in the social insurance officers' descriptions of dealing with the applications in order to reach a decision on whether the issue qualified applicants for a disability pension or not: 1. Clients are heterogeneous. 2. Ineffective and time consuming waiting for medical certificates impede the decision process. 3. Perspectives on the issue of work capacity differed among different stakeholders. The backgrounds of the clients differ considerably, leading to variation in the quality and content of applications. Social insurance officers had to make rapid decisions within a limited time frame, based on limited information, mainly on the basis of medical certificates that were often insufficient to judge work capacity. The role as coordinating actor with other stakeholders in the welfare system was perceived as frustrating, since different stakeholders have different goals and demands. The social insurance officers experience lack of control over the decision process, as regulations and other stakeholders restrict their work.
Conclusion
A picture emerges of difficulties due to disharmonized systems, stakeholder-bound goals causing some clients to fall between two stools, or leading to unnecessary waiting times, which may limit the clients' ability to take an active part in a constructive process. Increased communication with physicians about how to elaborate the medical certificates might improve the quality of certificates and thereby reduce the clients waiting time.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-128
PMCID: PMC1913505  PMID: 17597536
25.  Physician Emigration from Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States: Analysis of the 2011 AMA Physician Masterfile 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001513.
Siankam Tankwanchi and colleagues used the AMA Physician Masterfile and the WHO Global Health Workforce Statistics on physicians in sub-Saharan Africa to determine trends in physician emigration to the United States.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The large-scale emigration of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to high-income nations is a serious development concern. Our objective was to determine current emigration trends of SSA physicians found in the physician workforce of the United States.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed physician data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Workforce Statistics along with graduation and residency data from the 2011 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile (AMA-PM) on physicians trained or born in SSA countries who currently practice in the US. We estimated emigration proportions, year of US entry, years of practice before emigration, and length of time in the US. According to the 2011 AMA-PM, 10,819 physicians were born or trained in 28 SSA countries. Sixty-eight percent (n = 7,370) were SSA-trained, 20% (n = 2,126) were US-trained, and 12% (n = 1,323) were trained outside both SSA and the US. We estimated active physicians (age ≤70 years) to represent 96% (n = 10,377) of the total. Migration trends among SSA-trained physicians increased from 2002 to 2011 for all but one principal source country; the exception was South Africa whose physician migration to the US decreased by 8% (−156). The increase in last-decade migration was >50% in Nigeria (+1,113) and Ghana (+243), >100% in Ethiopia (+274), and >200% (+244) in Sudan. Liberia was the most affected by migration to the US with 77% (n = 175) of its estimated physicians in the 2011 AMA-PM. On average, SSA-trained physicians have been in the US for 18 years. They practiced for 6.5 years before US entry, and nearly half emigrated during the implementation years (1984–1999) of the structural adjustment programs.
Conclusion
Physician emigration from SSA to the US is increasing for most SSA source countries. Unless far-reaching policies are implemented by the US and SSA countries, the current emigration trends will persist, and the US will remain a leading destination for SSA physicians emigrating from the continent of greatest need.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Population growth and aging and increasingly complex health care interventions, as well as existing policies and market forces, mean that many countries are facing a shortage of health care professionals. High-income countries are addressing this problem in part by encouraging the immigration of foreign health care professionals from low- and middle-income countries. In the US, for example, international medical graduates (IMGs) can secure visas and permanent residency by passing examinations provided by the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates and by agreeing to provide care in areas that are underserved by US physicians. Inevitably, the emigration of physicians from low- and middle-income countries undermines health service delivery in the emigrating physicians' country of origin because physician supply is already inadequate in those countries. Physician emigration from sub-Saharan Africa, which has only 2% of the global physician workforce but a quarter of the global burden of disease, is particularly worrying. Since 1970, as a result of large-scale emigration and limited medical education, there has been negligible or negative growth in the density of physicians in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Liberia, for example, in 1973, there were 7.76 physicians per 100,000 people but by 2008 there were only 1.37 physicians per 100,000 people; in the US, there are 250 physicians per 100,000 people.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before policy proposals can be formulated to address global inequities in physician distribution, a clear picture of the patterns of physician emigration from resource-limited countries is needed. In this study, the researchers use data from the 2011 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile (AMA-PM) to investigate the “brain drain” of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa to the US. The AMA-PM collects annual demographic, academic, and professional data on all residents (physicians undergoing training in a medical specialty) and licensed physicians who practice in the US.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Workforce Statistics and graduation and residency data from the 2011 AMA-PM to estimate physician emigration rates from sub-Saharan African countries, year of US entry, years of service provided before emigration to the US, and length of time in the US. There were 10,819 physicians who were born or trained in 28 sub-Saharan African countries in the 2011 AMA-PM. By using a published analysis of the 2002 AMA-PM, the researchers estimated that US immigration among sub-Saharan African-trained physicians had increased over the past decade for all the countries examined except South Africa, where physician emigration had decreased by 8%. Overall, the number of sub-Saharan African IMGs in the US had increased by 38% since 2002. More than half of this increase was accounted for by Nigerian IMGs. Liberia was the country most affected by migration of its physicians to the US—77% of its estimated 226 physicians were in the 2011 AMA-PM. On average, sub-Saharan African IMGs had been in the US for 18 years and had practiced for 6.5 years before emigration. Finally, nearly half of the sub-Saharan African IMGs had migrated to US between 1984 and 1995, years during which structural adjustment programs, which resulted in deep cuts to public health care services, were implemented in developing countries by international financial institutions as conditions for refinancing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the sub-Saharan African IMGs in the 2011 AMA-PM only represent about 1% of all the physicians and less than 5% of the IMGs in the AMA-PM, these findings reveal a major loss of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa. They also suggest that emigration of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa is a growing problem and is likely to continue unless job satisfaction for physicians is improved in their country of origin. Moreover, because the AMA-PM only lists physicians who qualify for a US residency position, more physicians may have moved from sub-Saharan Africa to the US than reported here and may be working in other jobs incommensurate with their medical degrees (“brain waste”). The researchers suggest that physician emigration from sub-Saharan Africa to the US reflects the complexities in the labor markets for health care professionals in both Africa and the US and can be seen as low- and middle-income nations subsidizing the education of physicians in high-income countries. Policy proposals to address global inequities in physician distribution will therefore need both to encourage the recruitment, training, and retention of health care professionals in resource-limited countries and to persuade high-income countries to train more home-grown physicians to meet the needs of their own populations.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001513.
The Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research is a non-profit foundation committed to improving world health through education that was established in 2000 by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
The Global Health Workforce Alliance is a partnership of national governments, civil society, international agencies, finance institutions, researchers, educators, and professional associations dedicated to identifying, implementing and advocating for solutions to the chronic global shortage of health care professionals (available in several languages)
Information on the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and the providers of physician data lists is available via the American Medical Associations website
The World Health Organization (WHO) annual World Health Statistics reports present the most recent health statistics for the WHO Member States
The Medical Education Partnership Initiative is a US-sponsored initiative that supports medical education and research in sub-Saharan African institutions, aiming to increase the quantity, quality, and retention of graduates with specific skills addressing the health needs of their national populations
CapacityPlus is the USAID-funded global project uniquely focused on the health workforce needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
Seed Global Health cultivates the next generation of health professionals by allying medical and nursing volunteers with their peers in resource-limited settings
"America is Stealing the Worlds Doctors", a 2012 New York Times article by Matt McAllester, describes the personal experience of a young doctor who emigrated from Zambia to the US
Path to United States Practice Is Long Slog to Foreign Doctors, a 2013 New York Times article by Catherine Rampell, describes the hurdles that immigrant physicians face in practicing in the US
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001513
PMCID: PMC3775724  PMID: 24068894

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