Return to work factors and vocational rehabilitation interventions for long-term, partially disabled workers: a modified Delphi study among vocational rehabilitation professionals

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Background: Long-term disability has a great impact on both society and workers with disabilities. Little is known about the barriers which prohibit workers with long-term disabilities from returning to work and which interventions are best suited to counteract these barriers. The main purpose of this study was to obtain consensus among professionals on important return to work (RTW) factors and effective vocational rehabilitation (VR) interventions for long-term (> 2 years), partially disabled workers. Our three research questions were: (1) which factors are associated with RTW for long-term disabled workers?; (2) which factors associated with RTW can be targeted by VR interventions?; and (3) which VR interventions are the most effective to target these factors? Methods: A modified Delphi Study was conducted using a panel of 22 labour experts, caseworkers, and insurance physicians. The study consisted of several rounds of questionnaires and one online meeting. Results: The multidisciplinary panel reached consensus that 58 out of 67 factors were important for RTW and that 35 of these factors could be targeted using VR interventions. In five rounds, the expert panel reached consensus that 11 out of 22 VR interventions were effective for at least one of the eight most important RTW factors. Conclusions: Consensus was reached among the expert panel that many factors that are important for the RTW of short-term disabled workers are also important for the RTW of long-term partially disabled workers and that a substantial number of these factors could effectively be targeted using VR interventions. The results of this study will be used to develop a decision aid that supports vocational rehabilitation professionals in profiling clients and in choosing suitable VR interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number875
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Decision aid
  • Disability pension
  • Insurance physicians
  • Labour experts
  • Long-term sick leave
  • Return to work

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