Return-to-work intervention versus usual care for sick-listed employees: Health-economic investment appraisal alongside a cluster randomised trial

S. Lokman, D. Volker, M.C. Zijlstra-Vlasveld, E.P.M. Brouwers, B. Boon, A.T. Beekman, F. Smit, C.M. van der Feltz-Cornelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


To evaluate the health-economic costs and benefits of a guided eHealth intervention (E-health module embedded in Collaborative Occupational healthcare (ECO)) encouraging sick-listed employees to a faster return to work.
A two-armed cluster randomised trial with occupational physicians (OPs) (n=62), clustered and randomised by region into an experimental and a control group, to conduct a health-economic investment appraisal. Online self-reported data were collected from employees at baseline, after 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
Occupational health care in the Netherlands.
Employees from small-sized and medium-sized companies (≥18 years), sick-listed between 4 and 26 weeks with (symptoms of) common mental disorders visiting their OP.
In the intervention group, employees (N=131) received an eHealth module aimed at changing cognitions regarding return to work, while OPs were supported by a decision aid for treatment and referral options. Employees in the control condition (N=89) received usual sickness guidance.
Net benefits and return on investment based on absenteeism, presenteeism, health care use and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained.
From the employer's perspective, the incremental net benefits were €3187 per employee over a single year, representing a return of investment of €11 per invested Euro, with a break-even point at 6 months. The economic case was also favourable from the employee's perspective, partly because of QALY health gains. The intervention was costing €234 per employee from a health service financier's perspective. The incremental net benefits from a social perspective were €4210. This amount dropped to €3559 in the sensitivity analysis trimming the 5% highest costs.
The data suggest that the ECO intervention offers good value for money for virtually all stakeholders involved, because initial investments were more than recouped within a single year. The sometimes wide 95% CIs suggest that the costs and benefits are not always very precise estimates and real benefits could vary considerably.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere016348
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Return-to-work intervention versus usual care for sick-listed employees: Health-economic investment appraisal alongside a cluster randomised trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this