Better Communication for Better Patient Outcomes

After being involved in a few complex workers compensation claims recently, it has become extremely apparent to me that one of the most important factors in reaching a positive outcome is the style in which we, as stakeholders involved in the claim, communicate with our injured workers. Most of the people I have worked with during a worker’s compensation claim have limited knowledge and understanding of the system and even less education about their injury and how to manage it. Many feel lost and unsupported in the system, which can create feelings of high stress, anxiety and uncertainty about their future. This is where we, as professionals in the industry can have the greatest impact in supporting our injured workers and reduce the risk of them being entrenched in the system.

A study found that up to 50% of biopsychosocial flags and barriers are missed during a consultation and that a physician interrupts a patient 18 seconds into the patient’s description of their problem. Alternatively, these flags can be identified and addressed when using a communication style that educates, positively influences and creates a trusting and open relationship, between the consultant and the injured worker. Studies have found a biopsychosocial communication approach, also known as the patient centred approach, results in greater positive patient outcomes evidenced by improved patient satisfaction, increased adherence to treatment plans and improved patient health, when compared to a biomedical approach.

The patient centred model involves a holistic approach to treatment, from emotional health, symptom resolution, functional status and pain control. To achieve this, both the worker and the consultant need to agree on the nature of the injury and the course of action to overcome it. One study found that in 50% of consultations, the physician and patient did not agree on the main presenting problem, resulting in poor management and outcomes. When conducting an initial assessment with an injured worker, the biopsychosocial communication style looks at not only asking questions about the physical injury, but also discussing the injured worker’s feelings and concerns about their injury, expectations from treatment and their perception about how their problem affects their function. The patient centred approach also encourages patients to be actively involved in the decision making about their treatment plan.

Adopting a patient centred communication approach allows us as stakeholders to really understand the whole impact an injury has had on the worker’s life and understand the worker’s needs, expectations and barriers. From this, we will be able to implement an effective and realistic treatment plan that the injured worker understands fully, regarding what is expected of them and how the treatment will assist them with returning to pre-injury duties and activities of daily living. Having the worker engaged and involved in their rehabilitation is also critical in empowering the worker to take control of their injury and manage it confidently long term. We really do carry a lot of influence in our roles and it is so important for us to continually reflect on how we are communicating with all stakeholders to ensure a positive experience and outcome for our workers.

For more information on how we can assist you with a worker’s compensation injury or claim, contact

Tayla O’Halloran
(B.Sc. Exercise Physiology)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)



Charlton, C., Dearing, K., Berry, J., & Johnson, M. (2008). Nurse practitioners communication styles and their impact on patient outcomes: An integrated literature review. Journal Of The American Academy Of Nurse Practitioners, 20(7), 382-388. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2008.00336.x

Margalit, A., Glick, S., Benbassat, J., & Cohen, A. (2004). Effect of a biopsychosocial approach on patient satisfaction and patterns of care. Journal Of General Internal Medicine, 19(5), 485-491. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.30059.x

Stewert, M. (1995). Effective physician-patient communication and health outcomes: a review., 1423-1433.