Date: 14 Jan 2006

The utility of Functional Capacity Evaluation: the opinion of physicians and other experts in the field of return to work and disability claims

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Abstract

Objectives: This qualitative study explored how Dutch experts perceive the utility of functional capacity evaluation (FCE) for return to work (RTW) and disability claim (DC) assessment purposes. Methods: Twenty-one RTW case managers and 29 DC experts were interviewed by telephone using a semi-structured interview schedule. Results: The RTW case managers valued the utility of FCE on a scale of 0–10. Their mean valuation was 6.5 (SD 1.5). The average valuation for DC experts was 4.8 (SD 2.2). Arguments in favor of FCE were (1) its ability to confirm own opinions and (2) the objectivity of its measurement method. Arguments against FCE were (1) the redundancy of the information it provides and (2) the lack of objectivity. Indications for FCE were musculoskeletal disorders, a positive patient self-perception of ability to work, and the presence of an actual job. Contraindications for FCE were medically unexplained disorders, a negative patient self-perception of ability to work, and the existence of disputes and legal procedures. Conclusions: The responding RTW case managers perceived FCE to be more useful than the responding DC experts. The question of whether the arguments presented for and against the utility of FCE are valid is one that should be addressed in a future study.