Background: Arthritis often leads to presenteeism (decreased at-work productivity), missed days from work and permanent work disability, leading to reduced quality of life and high costs to individuals and society. Yet, health services addressing the employment needs of people with arthritis are lacking.
Objectives: We evaluated the effectiveness of the Making-it-WorkTM (MiW) program, an online self-management program developed to help people with inflammatory arthritis (IA) deal with employment issues.
Methods: A multi-center RCT evaluated the effectiveness of MiW at improving presenteeism and preventing work cessation (WC) over two years. Participants were recruited from rheumatologist practices, consumer organizations and arthritis programs, in three Canadian provinces. Eligibility criteria: diagnosis of IA, employed, age 18-59, and concerned about ability to work. Participants were randomized 1:1 to MiW or usual care plus printed material on workplace tips. MiW consists of five online self-learning modules and group meetings, and individual vocational counselling and ergonomic consultations. Questionnaires were administered every 6 months. Outcomes were presenteeism [Rheumatoid Arthritis Work Instability Scale (RA-WIS)], time to WC ≥ 6 months, and time to WC ≥ 2 months (secondary outcome). Baseline characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, education, disease duration and self-employment) were collected. Intention-to-treat (ITT) longitudinal analysis of RA-WIS using linear mixed effect regression models with 2-year comparison as primary endpoint and survival analysis for time to WC using Kaplan-Meier and Cox Proportional Hazard models were performed. Robustness analyses were conducted by using various missing values imputation methods like last observation carried forward, imputation using worse possible outcomes and model-based multiple imputations; using square root transformation of RA-WIS outcome; and adjusting for baseline covariates. SAS version 9.4 was used.
Results: A total of 564 participants were recruited, with 478 (84.75%) completing 2-year follow-up. Baseline characteristics were similar between groups. Mean RA-WIS scores were significantly lower in the intervention group from 6 months onwards, with the greatest difference observed at 2 years (-1.78, 95%CI: -2.7, -0.9, p < .0001), yielding a standardized effect size of 32%. Satisfactory robustness was observed. Work cessation occurred less often in intervention than control groups, but only reached statistical significance for WC ≥ 2 months (WC ≥ 6 months: 31 versus 44 events, aHR 0.70, 95%CI: 0.44, 1.11, p = 0.13; WC ≥ 2 months: 39 versus 61 events, aHR: 0.65, 95%CI: 0.43, 0.98, p = 0.04).
Conclusion: Results of the RCT reveal the program was effective at improving presenteeism and preventing short-term WC. Effectiveness at preventing long-term work disability will be assessed at 5 years. This program fills one of the most important and costly unmet needs for people with inflammatory arthritis.
References: Carruthers EC, Rogers P, Backman CL, et al. “Employment and arthritis: making it work” a randomized controlled trial evaluating an online program to help people with inflammatory arthritis maintain employment (study protocol). BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2014;14:59. Published 2014 Jul 21. doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-59
Disclosure of Interests: Andre Luquini: None declared, Yufei Zheng: None declared, Hui Xie: None declared, Catherine Backman: None declared, Pamela Rogers: None declared, Alex Kwok: None declared, Astrid Knight: None declared, Monique Gignac: None declared, Dianne Mosher: None declared, Linda Li: None declared, John Esdaile: None declared, Carter Thorne Consultant of: Abbvie, Centocor, Janssen, Lilly, Medexus/Medac, Pfizer, Speakers bureau: Medexus/Medac, Diane Lacaille: None declared
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