205074 Towards Worker/Patient Empowerment in Occupational Medicine Practice: Defining, Measuring, and Facilitating

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 4:50 PM

Michael B. Lax, MD MPH , Family Medicine SUNY Upstate Medical University, Central New York Occupational Health Clinical Center, Syracuse, NY
Rosemary Klein, MS, C-ANP, COHN-S , Central NY Occupational Health Clinical Center, Family Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY
This presentation describes a project of a publicly funded occupational health clinical center (OHCC) that has attempted to develop a worker/patient empowerment approach to the clinical care of injured workers. The project stems from a theoretical framework that recognizes that while worker/patients come to the clinic with problems that seem individual in nature, the causes can be found in their social context. Consequently, effective ‘treatment' for these problems requires identifying their causes and making change at several possible levels including the individual, the workplace and the policy/regulatory arena. ‘Treatment' in this sense requires the worker/patient have the power to contribute to change.

The OHCC's challenge has been to take this theoretical insight and apply it to patient care. Activities undertaken toward this end include:

1) Defining the meaning of empowerment in this context

2) Developing ways to measure empowerment

3) Developing a clinical practice that encourages and facilitates worker/patient empowerment

4) Identification of barriers to this process

The presentation will discuss how the OHCC has sought to address each of these issues. The focus will be on the OHCC's case study approach in which staff closely analyzed a series of patient cases to both define and assess the level of empowerment. Changes to the OHCC's clinical practice based on this analysis will be described. Efforts to evaluate the evolving practice will also be discussed.

Implementation of a worker/patient empowerment approach creates the possibility of more effective treatment and prevention of occupational disease and injury.

Learning Objectives:
• Describe the clinical approach utilized to assess, treat, and empower patients with work related injuries and illnesses. • Discuss how an individual’s work related health problems and psychosocial issues can be assessed by considering the broader social context • Define empowerment as it is used as an approach to patient care. • List barriers faced by clinicians and other disciplines in applying an empowerment model to assessing and treating injured and ill workers.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a physician Board Certified in Occupational Medicine. I have been the Medical Director of an Occupational Medicine Clinic for twenty years and this abstract describes work that I have done in that capacity.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.