Implementation science and employer disability practices: Embedding implementation factors in research designs

Chris J. MAIN, Michael K. NICHOLAS, William S. SHAW, Lois E. TETRICK, Mark G. EHRHART, Glenn PRANSKY, The Hopkinton Conference Working Group on Workplace Disability Prevention, Che Hin Chetwyn CHAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose For work disability research to have an impact on employer policies and practices it is important for such research to acknowledge and incorporate relevant aspects of the workplace. The goal of this article is to summarize recent theoretical and methodological advances in the field of Implementation Science, relate these to research of employer disability management practices, and recommend future research priorities. Methods The authors participated in a year-long collaboration culminating in an invited 3-day conference, "Improving Research of Employer Practices to Prevent Disability", held October 14–16, 2015, in Hopkinton, MA, USA. The collaboration included a topical review of the literature, group conference calls to identify key areas and challenges, drafting of initial documents, review of industry publications, and a conference presentation that included feedback from peer researchers and a question/answer session with a special panel of knowledge experts with direct employer experience. Results A 4-phase implementation model including both outer and inner contexts was adopted as the most appropriate conceptual framework, and aligned well with the set of process evaluation factors described in both the work disability prevention literature and the grey literature. Innovative interventions involving disability risk screening and psychologically-based interventions have been slow to gain traction among employers and insurers. Research recommendations to address this are : (1) to assess organizational culture and readiness for change in addition to individual factors; (2) to conduct process evaluations alongside controlled trials; (3) to analyze decision-making factors among stakeholders; and (4 ) to solicit input from employers and insurers during early phases of study design. Conclusions Future research interventions involving workplace support and involvement to prevent disability may be more feasible for implementation if organizational decision-making factors are imbedded in research designs and interventions are developed to take account of these influences. Copyright © 2016 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-464
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Early online dateOct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Main, C. J., Nicholas, M. K., Shaw, W. S., Tetrick, L. E., Ehrhart, M. G., Pransky, G., . . . Chan, C. C. H. (2016). Implementation science and employer disability practices: Embedding implementation factors in research designs. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 26, 448-464. doi: 10.1007/s10926-016-9677-7


  • Implementation factors
  • Workplace interventions
  • Disability prevention
  • Research priorities


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