WHY ORDER A FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY EVALUATION?
Independent medical examinations (IME’s) are usually performed in a doctor’s office. Although the examination can provide a medical diagnosis and some information on function, it is not usually possible to obtain detailed data in such a limited environment.
Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE’s) can be a very helpful addition to the evaluation of a claimant who is off work, or finding it challenging to perform the expected duties while still on the job.
FCE’s are most frequently performed by occupational therapists (OT’s).
WHAT INFORMATION CAN BE OBTAINED FROM AN FCE?
- Comparison of subjective symptoms and objective findings.
- Pain levels prior to and after various activities.
- Information on effort levels. (This is subject to interpretation though and can be affected by pain, anxiety, and depression.)
- Detailed data on range of motion, tolerances for sitting/standing/walking, strength (such as pushing, pulling, lifting), repetitive movement performance, and others.
- Work simulation – This is invaluable, as it provides data that approximates the actual duties performed in a particular job (although this is not always feasible or practical.)
- Comparison of pain levels at the end of the testing day versus the beginning, as well as follow up interviews the next day or two post FCE to assess the impact of the activity on pain levels and function.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE DATA FROM AN FCE
An FCE could lead to recommendations for further treatment, in conjunction with the IME. It could also be essential in return-to-work planning, either a modified program to accommodate the claimant’s functional limitations, or a change in career direction. At times, the FCE provides additional data that might indicate a claimant is no longer competitively employable.