In Canada, the provincial workers’ compensation boards (WCBs) operate as parallel payers to the provincial public plans in the health care system. My research project examines geographic variation in healthcare in five Canadian WCBs and the effect of this variation on return-to-work for injured workers. To answer this research question, I am carrying out a scan of WCB healthcare programs, policies and practices, and analyzing an administrative dataset of workers’ compensation claims.

 
Christopher McLeod
West Kelowna
Canada
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

Research in conventional healthcare systems has shown that there is geographic variation both between countries and within countries for health care expenditures and a multitude of health care procedures. This variation has been linked to higher than average spending on supply-sensitive care, such as such as medical specialist visits and diagnostic tests, and regional differences in physician practice style, rather than to patient need. This research has been of particular interest to policymakers in finding opportunities to address rising healthcare costs. In Canada, the provincial workers’ compensation boards (WCBs) operate as parallel payers to the provincial public plans in the health care system. In response to rising costs and wait times in Canada’s public plans, WCBs have adopted new service-delivery arrangements, approaches to care coordination and funding models to improve worker health and avoid delayed return-to-work after work injury. Due to differences in management and funding of healthcare across WCBs, there is the potential for different patterns of health care spending and utilization in workers’ compensation systems compared to conventional healthcare systems My research project examines geographic variation in healthcare in five Canadian WCBs and the effect of this variation on return-to-work for injured workers. To answer this research question, I am: 1) carrying out a scan of WCB healthcare programs, policies and practices; and 2) analyzing an administrative dataset of workers’ compensation claims.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

Being a Public Scholar means identifying and carrying out research that is meaningful to stakeholders and policy makers in order to make an impact in a real-world setting. I believe that it is the responsibility of Public Scholars to ensure that their research findings are communicated effectively and will be used in evidence-based decision-making. The Public Scholar Initiative provides me with the opportunity to translate my research outside of traditional academic outputs and into a format that is engaging and accessible for non-academic decision-makers and stakeholders.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

There is still a gap in translating research findings into practical decision-making. The Public Scholars Initiative encourages students to thoughtfully consider how their research can include community and social partners from the outset and how they can think outside the box to share their findings. This re-imagines PhD-level research as something that is responsive to the needs of the stakeholders, policy makers and communities. By encouraging this way of thinking, the Public Scholars Initiative also helps students engage in the type of scholarship that is valued in applied settings, building skills for employment outside of academia.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

During my PhD I have focused on tackling policy-driven research questions and gaining practical skills so that I can work in an applied setting after I graduate. The Public Scholars Initiative provides me with a valuable opportunity to develop a mapping and visualization tool that will demonstrate my skills to prospective employers. It will also allow me to make connections with stakeholders and policy makers that can provide me with career opportunities after I graduate.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

I am engaging with key stakeholders in WCBs throughout my research to help target my analyses and contextualize my findings. Thanks to the Public Scholars Initiative I have the opportunity to translate my findings into an interactive mapping and visualization tool. This tool will allow me to communicate my findings to a wide range of stakeholders I might not otherwise reach with traditional academic research dissemination, including WCB policy makers, healthcare professionals, unions and advocacy groups with interests in rehabilitation of injured workers and their return-to-work.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

As health care costs and wait times continue to rise, many WCBs have adopted innovative funding models or care coordination to balance the importance of improving worker health with the costs of employer premiums. I hope that my research findings will provide new understanding of how geographic variation impacts disability duration, as well offer the opportunity to examine the effect of different approaches to managing healthcare across WCBs. This can optimize effective care management for injured workers and promote timely return-to-work. Mapping geographic variation in healthcare and return-to-work within and across WCBs can also identify issues of equity with respect to access to healthcare and return-to-work rates across geographic regions.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I am passionate about conducting research that can improve the lives and well-being of workers. I knew that a graduate degree would provide me with the skills and experience to design and lead practical research that has a positive impact on the workers’ compensation system and on worker health.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I was primarily drawn to study at UBC because of the work being carried out at the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety, a collaboration between WorkSafeBC and UBC. This collaboration was instrumental in providing me with the opportunity to identify and engage in research that is meaningful to stakeholders and policymakers which increases the potential for my research to impact program and policy decisions. Furthermore, as a researcher with experience across different disciplines and research methodologies, I was keen to learn and work in a multidisciplinary setting like the School of Population and Public Health at UBC.

 

Being a Public Scholar means identifying and carrying out research that is meaningful to stakeholders and policy makers in order to make an impact in a real-world setting.