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1.  Effectiveness of Web-based Interventions on Patient Empowerment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
Patient empowerment is growing in popularity and application. Due to the increasing possibilities of the Internet and eHealth, many initiatives that are aimed at empowering patients are delivered online.
Our objective was to evaluate whether Web-based interventions are effective in increasing patient empowerment compared with usual care or face-to-face interventions.
We performed a systematic review by searching the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases from January 1985 to January 2009 for relevant citations. From the 7096 unique citations retrieved from the search strategy, we included 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that met all inclusion criteria. Pairs of review authors assessed the methodological quality of the obtained studies using the Downs and Black checklist. A meta-analysis was performed on studies that measured comparable outcomes. The GRADE approach was used to determine the level of evidence for each outcome.
In comparison with usual care or no care, Web-based interventions had a significant positive effect on empowerment measured with the Diabetes Empowerment Scale (2 studies, standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.29 - 0.94]), on self-efficacy measured with disease-specific self-efficacy scales (9 studies, SMD = 0.23, 95% CI 0.12 - 0.33), and on mastery measured with the Pearlin Mastery Scale (1 study, mean difference [MD] = 2.95, 95% CI 1.66 - 4.24). No effects were found for self-efficacy measured with general self-efficacy scales (3 studies, SMD = 0.05, 95% CI -0.25 to 0.35) or for self-esteem measured with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (1 study, MD = -0.38, 95% CI -2.45 to 1.69). Furthermore, when comparing Web-based interventions with face-to-face deliveries of the same interventions, no significant (beneficial or harmful) effects were found for mastery (1 study, MD = 1.20, 95% CI -1.73 to 4.13) and self-esteem (1 study, MD = -0.10, 95% CI -0.45 to 0.25).
Web-based interventions showed positive effects on empowerment measured with the Diabetes Empowerment Scale, disease-specific self-efficacy scales and the Pearlin Mastery Scale. Because of the low quality of evidence we found, the results should be interpreted with caution. The clinical relevance of the findings can be questioned because the significant effects we found were, in general, small.
PMCID: PMC2956234  PMID: 20581001
Patient empowerment; Internet; eHealth
2.  Effectiveness of a web-based intervention for injured claimants: a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:227.
There is considerable evidence showing that injured people who are involved in a compensation process show poorer physical and mental recovery than those with similar injuries who are not involved in a compensation process. One explanation for this reduced recovery is that the legal process and the associated retraumatization are very stressful for the claimant. The aim of this study was to empower injured claimants in order to facilitate recovery.
Participants were recruited by three Dutch claims settlement offices. The participants had all been injured in a traffic crash and were involved in a compensation process. The study design was a randomized controlled trial. An intervention website was developed with (1) information about the compensation process, and (2) an evidence-based, therapist-assisted problem-solving course. The control website contained a few links to already existing websites. Outcome measures were empowerment, self-efficacy, health status (including depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms), perceived fairness, ability to work, claims knowledge and extent of burden. The outcomes were self-reported through online questionnaires and were measured four times: at baseline, and at 3, 6, and 12 months.
In total, 176 participants completed the baseline questionnaire after which they were randomized into either the intervention group (n = 88) or the control group (n = 88). During the study, 35 participants (20%) dropped out. The intervention website was used by 55 participants (63%). The health outcomes of the intervention group were no different to those of the control group. However, the intervention group considered the received compensation to be fairer (P <0.01). The subgroup analysis of intervention users versus nonusers did not reveal significant results. The intervention website was evaluated positively.
Although the web-based intervention was not used enough to improve the health of injured claimants in compensation processes, it increased the perceived fairness of the compensation amount.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register NTR2360
PMCID: PMC3722043  PMID: 23870540
Injury compensation; Web-based intervention; Randomized controlled trial; E-health; Empowerment
3.  Exploring Lawyer–Client Interaction 
Psychological Injury and Law  2012;5(1):89-94.
Personal injury victims involved in compensation processes have a worse recovery than those not involved in compensation processes. One predictor for worse recovery is lawyer engagement. As some people argue that this negative relation between lawyer engagement and recovery may be explained by lawyers’ attitude and communications to clients, it seems important to investigate lawyer–client interaction. Although procedural justice and therapeutic jurisprudence had previously discussed aspects relevant for lawyer–client interaction, the client’s perspective has been rather ignored and only few empirical studies have been conducted. In this qualitative study, 21 traffic accident victims were interviewed about their experiences with their lawyer. Five desirable characteristics for lawyers were identified: communication, empathy, decisiveness, independence, and expertise. Communication and empathy corresponded with aspects already discussed in literature, whereas decisiveness, independence and expertise had been addressed only marginally. Further qualitative and quantitative research is necessary to establish preferable lawyer characteristics and to investigate what would improve the well-being of personal injury victims during the claims settlement process.
PMCID: PMC3407555  PMID: 22866183
Personal injury victims; Lawyer characteristics; Client-centered lawyering; Procedural justice; Therapeutic jurisprudence
4.  Process evaluation of a web-based intervention aimed at empowerment of disability benefit claimants 
The objective of this process evaluation study was to gain insight into the reach, compliance, appreciation, usage barriers, and users' perceived effectiveness of a web-based intervention This intervention was aimed at empowerment of disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability by an insurance physician.
Reach was determined by registering claimants exposed to the study's invitation brochures, and by comparing trial participant characteristics with non-participants and nationwide claimant data. Compliance was registered by analyzing weblogs, which were automatically collected during the period of the trial. This made it possible to analyze individual use of the intervention. Appreciation, usage barriers, and users' perceived effectiveness were assessed using an online questionnaire that was sent to participants from the intervention group, 6 weeks after enrolment.
Only 9% of the target population enrolled in the internet program. Because of selective enrolment, more females, higher educated claimants, and less ethnical minorities were reached. Compliance was ambiguous: out of the 123 participants randomized into the intervention group, a significant proportion (33%) did not use the intervention at all, while, at the same time, many participants (32%) used the intervention for more than two hours (i.e. in approximately two weeks). Overall satisfaction with the intervention was good. Claimants perceived the intervention most effective in increasing knowledge, while also a fair amount of users perceived the intervention effective in gaining right expectations or being able to communicate better with their physician.
The uptake of the intervention was disappointing. Specifically, the poor reach and compliance of the intervention resulted in a small proportion of the target population using the intervention as intended. Improvements in the implementation process are desirable to increase the reach and compliance and, thereby possibly, the impact of the intervention.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3048479  PMID: 21324172
5.  Empowerment of personal injury victims through the internet: design of a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:29.
Research has shown that current claims settlement process can have a negative impact on psychological and physical recovery of personal injury (PI) victims. One of the explanations for the negative impact on health is that the claims settlement process is a stressful experience and victims suffer from renewed victimization caused by the claims settlement process. PI victims can experience a lack of information, lack of involvement, lack of 'voice', and poor communication. We present the first study that aims to empower PI victims with respect to the negative impact of the claims settlement process by means of an internet intervention.
The study is a two armed, randomized controlled trial (RCT), in which 170 PI victims are randomized to either the intervention or control group. The intervention group will get access to a website providing 1) an information module, so participants learn what is happening and what to expect during the claims settlement process, and 2) an e-coach module, so participants learn to cope with problems they experience during the claims settlement process. The control group will get access to a website with hyperlinks to commonly available information only. Participants will be recruited via a PI claims settlement office. Participants are included if they have been involved in a traffic accident which happened less than two years ago, and are at least 18 years old.
The main study parameter is the increase of empowerment within the intervention group compared to the control group. Empowerment will be measured by the mastery scale and a self-efficacy scale. The secondary outcomes are perceived justice, burden, well being, work ability, knowledge, amount of damages, and lawyer-client communication. Data are collected at baseline (T0 measurement before randomization), at three months, six months, and twelve months after baseline. Analyses will be conducted according to the intention-to-treat principle.
This study evaluates the effectiveness of an internet intervention aimed at empowerment of PI victims. The results will give more insight into the impact of compensation proceedings on health over time, and they can have important consequences for legal claims settlement. Strengths and limitations of this study are discussed.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register NTR2360
PMCID: PMC3038943  PMID: 21288346
6.  Effectiveness of an Interactive Website Aimed at Empowerment of Disability Benefit Claimants: Results of a Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial 
Introduction The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an interactive website aimed at empowerment of disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability by an insurance physician. Methods A randomized controlled trial was conducted. Claimants applying for a work disability pension after being sick-listed for 104 weeks, were randomized into either an intervention group or control group. Participants who were randomized into the intervention group were able to logon to the website, which mainly consisted of five interactive modules aimed at increasing knowledge, self-awareness, expectations, self-efficacy, and active participation. Participants from the control group were directed to a ‘sham’ website with commonly available information only. The primary outcome was empowerment. Secondary outcomes included coping, knowledge, claimant satisfaction, perceived justice, and physician satisfaction. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, 2 days before the disability assessment, as well as 1 day after, 6 weeks, and 4 months after the disability assessment. Results Claimants were randomly assigned to the intervention group (n = 123) or a control group (n = 119). The intervention had no significant short- and long-term effects on empowerment, but the intervention increased claimants’ knowledge significantly compared to the control group. Claimant satisfaction with the disability assessment interview and claimant perceived justice on the outcome of the assessment were lower in the intervention group (statistically not significant). Furthermore, the intervention had a significant negative effect on claimants perceived procedural justice. Conclusion Although knowledge increased significantly, the intervention was not successful in reaching its primary target, that is, to increase levels of empowerment among disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability.
PMCID: PMC3173646  PMID: 21258848
Empowerment; Physician-patient relationship; Internet; Disability assessments; Medical disability claimants
7.  Value of symptoms and additional diagnostic tests for colorectal cancer in primary care: systematic review and meta-analysis  
Objective To summarise available evidence on diagnostic tests that might help primary care physicians to identify patients with an increased risk for colorectal cancer among those consulting for non-acute lower abdominal symptoms.
Data sources PubMed, Embase, and reference screening.
Study eligibility criteria Studies were selected if the design was a diagnostic study; the patients were adults consulting because of non-acute lower abdominal symptoms; tests included signs, symptoms, blood tests, or faecal tests.
Study appraisal and synthesis methods Two reviewers independently assessed quality with a modified version of the QUADAS tool and extracted data. We present diagnostic two by two tables and pooled estimates of sensitivity and specificity. We refrained from pooling when there was considerable clinical or statistical heterogeneity.
Results 47 primary diagnostic studies were included. Sensitivity was consistently high for age ≥50 (range 0.81-0.96, median 0.91), a referral guideline (0.80-0.94, 0.92), and immunochemical faeces tests (0.70-1.00, 0.95). Of these, only specificity of the faeces tests was good. Specificity was consistently high for family history (0.75-0.98, 0.91), weight loss (0.72-0.96, 0.89), and iron deficiency anaemia (0.83-0.95, 0.92), but all tests lacked sensitivity. None of these six tests was (sufficiently) studied in primary care.
Conclusions Although combinations of symptom and results of immunochemical faeces tests showed good diagnostic performance for colorectal cancer, evidence from primary care is lacking. High quality studies on their role in the diagnostic investigation of colorectal cancer in primary care are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC2848719  PMID: 20360221
8.  Can prolonged sick leave after gynecologic surgery be predicted? An observational study in the Netherlands 
Surgical Endoscopy  2009;23(10):2237-2241.
Sick leave frequently has been used as an outcome to evaluate minimal invasive surgery compared with conventional open surgery. However, sick leave is determined not only by the surgical approach. Recently, a postoperative recovery-specific quality-of-life questionnaire, the Recovery Index (RI-10), has been developed and validated. This study investigated the relation of the Recovery Index 10, the RI-6 (a subset of 6 questions), and the type of surgery to sick leave.
The study enrolled 46 patients with a paid job scheduled for elective gynecologic surgery, who filled out the RI-10. After 8 weeks, the patients were approached by telephone to give information on their return to work.
Of the 46 patients, 23 (50%) returned to work completely after 8 weeks, 14 (30%) resumed work partly, and 9 (20%) did not resume work at all. In the analysis, the patients who completely returned to work were compared with those who did not return or partially returned. Recovery as expressed in the RI-6 improved with time after surgery. It appeared that the measurement 2 weeks after surgery showed the best discriminative capacity to predict sick leave after 8 weeks, with an area under the curve of 0.88 (confidence interval, 0.74–1.03). The subjective postoperative recovery as expressed by the RI-6 is more closely related to the type of surgery (p = 0.001) sick leave is (p = 0.14).
The subjective recovery scored by the patient on a questionnaire of six questions is a better outcome than sick leave for evaluating surgical approaches. If administered 2 weeks after surgery, it may predict prolonged sick leave.
PMCID: PMC2768029  PMID: 19118421
Gynecology; Laparoscopy; Postoperative recovery; Quality of life; Sick leave
9.  Evidence-based guidelines in the evaluation of work disability: an international survey and a comparison of quality of development 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:349.
In social insurance, the evaluation of work disability is becoming stricter as priority is given to the resumption of work, which calls for a guarantee of quality for these evaluations. Evidence-based guidelines have become a major instrument in the quality control of health care, and the quality of these guidelines' development can be assessed using the AGREE instrument. In social insurance medicine, such guidelines are relatively new. We were interested to know what guidelines have been developed to support the medical evaluation of work disability and the quality of these guidelines.
Five European countries that were reported to use guidelines were approached, using a recent inventory of evaluations of work disability in Europe. We focused on guidelines that are disease-oriented and formally prescribed in social insurance medicine. Using the AGREE instrument, these guidelines were appraised by two researchers. We asked two experts involved in guideline development to indicate if they agreed with our results and to provide explanations for insufficient scores.
We found six German and sixteen Dutch sets of disease-oriented guidelines in official use. The AGREE instrument was applicable, requiring minor adaptations. The appraisers reached consensus on all items. Each guideline scored well on 'scope and purpose' and 'clarity and presentation'. The guidelines scored moderately on 'stakeholder involvement' in the Netherlands, but insufficiently in Germany, due mainly to the limited involvement of patients' representatives in this country. All guidelines had low scores on 'rigour of development', which was due partly to a lack of documentation and of existing evidence. 'Editorial independence' and 'applicability' had low scores in both countries as a result of how the production was organised.
Disease-oriented guidelines in social insurance medicine for the evaluation of work disability are a recent phenomenon, so far restricted to Germany and the Netherlands. The AGREE instrument is suitably applicable to assess the quality of guideline development in social insurance medicine, but some of the scoring rules need to be adapted to the context of social insurance. Existing guidelines do not meet the AGREE criteria to a sufficient level. The way patients' representatives can be involved needs further discussion. The guidelines would profit from more specific recommendations and, for providing evidence, more research is needed on the functional capacity of people with disabilities.
PMCID: PMC2754463  PMID: 19765295
10.  Empowerment of disability benefit claimants through an interactive website: design of a randomized controlled trial 
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.
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 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.
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
PMCID: PMC2689177  PMID: 19426557
11.  Design of a randomized controlled trial on the effects of Counseling of mental health problems by Occupational Physicians on return to work: the CO-OP-study 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:183.
Mental health problems often lead to prolonged sick leave. In primary care, the usual approach towards these patients was the advice to take rest and not return to work before all complaints had disappeared. When complaints persist, these patients are often referred to psychologists from primary and specialized secondary care. As an alternative, ways have been sought to activate the Dutch occupational physician (OP) in primary care. Early 2000, the Dutch Association of Occupational Physicians (NVAB) published a guideline concerning the management by OPs of employees with mental health problems. The guideline received positive reactions from employees, employers and Dutch OPs. This manuscript describes the design of a study, which aims to assess the effects of the guideline, compared with usual care.
In a randomized controlled trial (RCT), subjects in the intervention group were treated according to the guideline. The control group received usual care, with minimal involvement of the OP and easy access to a psychologist. Subjects were recruited from two Dutch police departments. The primary outcomes of the study are return to work and treatment satisfaction by the employee, employer, and OP. A secondary outcome is cost-effectiveness of the intervention, compared with usual care. Furthermore, prognostic measures are taken into account as potential confounders. A process evaluation will be done by means of performance indicators, based on the guideline.
In this pragmatic trial, effectiveness instead of efficacy is studied. We will evaluate what is possible in real clinical practice, rather than under ideal circumstances. Many requirements for a high quality trial are being met. Results of this study will contribute to treatment options in occupational health practice for employees on sick leave due to mental health problems. Additionally, they may contribute to new and better-suited guidelines and stepped care. Results will become available during 2007.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN34887348
PMCID: PMC1976112  PMID: 17655758
12.  Improving return-to-work after childbirth: design of the Mom@Work study, a randomised controlled trial and cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:43.
Many women suffer from health problems after giving birth, which can lead to sick leave. About 30% of Dutch workers are on sick leave after maternity leave. Structural contact of supervisors with employees on maternity leave, supported by early medical advice of occupational physicians, may increase the chances of return-to-work after maternity leave. In addition, to understand the process of sick leave and return-to-work after childbirth it is important to gain insight into which factors hinder return-to-work after childbirth, as well, as which prognostic factors lead to the development of postpartum health complaints. In this paper, the design of the Mom@Work study is described.
The Mom@Work study is simultaneously a randomised controlled trial and a cohort study. Pregnant women working for at least 12 hours a week at one of the 15 participating companies are eligible to participate. The supervisors of these pregnant employees are randomised at 35 weeks pregnancy into the intervention group or control group. During maternity leave, supervisors in the intervention group contact their employee six weeks after delivery using a structured interview. When employees do not expect to return to their jobs at the end of their scheduled maternity leave due to health problems, the supervisor offers early support of the occupational physician. Supervisors in the control group have no structural contact with their employees during maternity leave. Measurements take place at 30 weeks pregnancy and at 6, 12, 24 and 52 weeks postpartum. In addition, cost data are collected. For the RCT, primary outcome measures are sick leave and return-to-work, and secondary outcome measures are costs, health, satisfaction with intervention and global feelings of recovery. Outcome measures for the cohort are pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain, fatigue and depression. Finally, a number of prognostic factors for return-to-work and for the development of complaints will be measured.
The Mom@Work study will provide important information about return-to-work of employees after giving birth. Results will give insight in prognosis of postpartum sick leave and complaints. Also, the role of supervisors and occupational physicians in successful return-to-work after childbirth will be clarified.
PMCID: PMC1851952  PMID: 17394629
13.  Attitudes Towards Detection and Management of Hepatic Metastases of Colorectal Origin: A Second Look 
HPB Surgery  1994;8(2):115-122.
In the present study we undertook an international postal survey to assess the current attitudes towards the detection and management of hepatic metastases in colorectal cancer patients, who have been operated on with curative intent. Results of this survey were compared to results of an earlier survey, held in 1985. Both surveys indicate that there is no consensus on the follow-up of patients at risk of hepatic metastases. Especially the interpretation of unexplained rises in carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels leads to much controversy. Only 37% of the hospitals performing liver surgery were willing to perform second-look laparotomies based on CEA only. Also there is no agreement on the maximum number of liver metastases that will justify partial liver resection for cure. Clearly, there is a need for prospective randomized trials on which a more rational policy regarding hepatic metastases in colorectal cancer patients can be based.
PMCID: PMC2423768  PMID: 7880770

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