Functional Capacity Evaluation

Functional Capacity Evaluation

Also known as a physical capacity evaluation (PCE), functional capacity assessment (FCA), work capacity evaluation (WCE), or informally as “functional testing.”

An intensive short-term (usually one-day) evaluation that focuses on major physical tolerance abilities related to musculoskeletal strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility. FCE is not only a useful clinical tool, but also a baseline for industry-standard results that clearly define an individual’s transition from injury to employment, and from disability to deployment.

Key factors: A skilled FCE utilizes a battery of standardized tests designed around key factors: diagnosis, impairment, pain and functional limitation, referral questions, and in some instances the case resolution goal. The value to the injured individual is the focus on functional ability instead of the pain limitation associated with an impairment. It considers speed, flexibility, endurance, skill, and strength through the use of functional testing, MTM, and standardized measurements to assess job-fit status.

Purpose: To 1) collect reliable information about current functional and vocational status and 2) estimate potential functional and vocational status. This dual approach is a hallmark of the Matheson philosophy. Case resolution purposes may be used to establish level of impairment (lowest-level use of an FCE), as a disability evaluation, for compromise and release, or for medical-legal purposes (highest use of an FCE).

  • Transition injured workers from disability to function and employment. Used by physicians, case managers, and employers, FCE is the single most reliable measure to determine whether a successful return to work is possible. It is inherently a thorough and accurate evaluation process, documenting an individual’s residual physical abilities, level of effort expended during testing, reliability of reports of pain, and limitation.
  • Vocational rehabilitation settings. Here, FCE results are typically used to develop return-to-work plans either as the basis of an offer of alternative employment or as the foundation for a feasibility development plan (work-focused rehabilitation). results are a sound framework for developing a temporary alternative duty plan.
  • Military setting. FCE results are used to evaluate progress as the injured soldier transitions back to the force in the usual and customary military occupational specialty (MOS) or to measure physical ability to reintegrate into a new specialty. It can also be used in preparation for a medical evaluation board or in transition from active duty to Veterans Administration services.
  • A bridge from impairment to recovery. FCE is an important bridge from the impairment phase of medical evaluation to the disability recovery phase. While it provides documentation of impairment, it is best suited to the evaluation and amelioration of disability. Providing a means for a shift from the disability to vocational feasibility construct is an attainable goal with the use of FCE.