• Economic evaluation;
  • Vocational rehabilitation;
  • Job loss



To estimate from a societal perspective the cost-utility of a multidisciplinary job retention vocational rehabilitation program compared with usual care in patients with chronic rheumatic diseases at risk of job loss.


Patients (n = 121) were randomly assigned to either the vocational rehabilitation program or usual outpatient care initiated by the treating rheumatologist. Followup lasted for 2 years. Program costs were estimated using time registrations and other societal costs using quarterly cost questionnaires filled out by the patients. To estimate quality-adjusted life years, utility was assessed using the EuroQol classification system, EuroQol rating scale, Short Form 6D, and Time Trade-Off.


As part of the vocational rehabilitation program, patients on average had a total of 7.1 consultations and the total time spent by the multidisciplinary team was 12.7 hours per patient. Program costs were estimated at €1,426, of which ∼20% were time and travel costs incurred by the patients. No significant differences were found in other health care consumption, productivity, or quality-adjusted life years. Program costs were outweighed by total savings on other health care and nonhealth care costs, but not significantly.


From a societal perspective, it remains unclear whether the program reduces or increases total costs. Further research on effective vocational rehabilitation is warranted, with special attention to early detection of work problems and the collaboration between health care and vocational rehabilitation services.