Assessing the Value of High-Quality Care for Work-Associated Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a Large Integrated Health Care System

Study Design

Published in: The Permanente Journal, v. 20, no. 4, Oct. 2016, p. 1-9

Posted on RAND.org on October 31, 2016

by Craig Conlon, Steven M. Asch, Mark Alan Hanson, Andrew Avins, Barbara Levitan, Carol P. Roth, Michael Robbins, Michael Dworsky, Seth A. Seabury, Teryl K. Nuckols

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Context

Little is known about quality of care for occupational health disorders, although it may affect worker health and workers' compensation costs. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common work-associated condition that causes substantial disability.

Objective

To describe the design of a study that is assessing quality of care for work-associated CTS and associations with clinical outcomes and costs.

Design

Prospective observational study of 477 individuals with new workers' compensation claims for CTS without acute trauma who were treated at 30 occupational health clinics from 2011 to 2013 and followed for 18 months.

Main Outcome Measures

Timing of key clinical events, adherence to 45 quality measures, changes in scores on the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire and 12-item Short Form Health Survey Version 2 (SF-12v2), and costs associated with medical care and disability.

Results

Two hundred sixty-seven subjects (56%) received a diagnosis of CTS and had claims filed around the first visit to occupational health, 104 (22%) received a diagnosis before that visit and claim, and 98 (21%) received a diagnosis or had claims filed after that visit. One hundred seventy-eight (37%) subjects had time off work, which started around the time of surgery in 147 (83%) cases and lasted a median of 41 days (interquartile range = 42 days).

Conclusions

The timing of diagnosis varied, but time off work was generally short and related to surgery. If associations of quality of care with key medical, economic, and quality-of-life outcomes are identified for work-associated CTS, systematic efforts to evaluate and improve quality of medical care for this condition are warranted.

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