Functional Capacity Evaluation

A functional capacity evaluation is a set of tests, practices and observations that are combined to determine the ability of the person being evaluated to function in a variety of circumstances, most often employment, in an objective manner. It may be required by insurers when an insured person applies for disability payments or a disability pension in the case of permanent disability.

In order to assess function, an instrument is used that can reliably measure the functional physical ability of a person to perform a work-related series of tasks. We use the Matheson Functional Capacity Evaluation System (FCE).

Over the past twenty years, many researchers have tried to develop functional capacity evaluation instruments. Matheson provided one of the earliest examples. It began in 1984.

The quality of the Matheson FCE, and of the Matheson-trained thinking evaluator, is widely recognized. The Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) lists the Matheson FCE as a “gold standard,” and it is accepted in the highest courts in both the United States and Canada.

Functional Capacity Evaluations are used for a variety of reasons. We can use an FCE to develop a treatment program, to measure the physical abilities of patients before and after a rehabilitation program, to modify a rehabilitation treatment, to evaluate whether an injured worker can work, and to determine when he/she can return to work.

An FCE can be used to determine fitness to work following an extended period of medical leave. If an employee is unable to return to work, the FCE provides information on prognosis, and occupational rehabilitation measures that may be possible. An FCE can also be used to help identify changes to employee workload, or modifications to working conditions such as ergonomic measures, that the employer may be able to undertake in an effort to accommodate an employee with a disability or medical condition. FCEs are needed to determine if an employee is able to resume working in a capacity “commensurate with his or her skills or abilities” before the disability or medical condition was diagnosed.