INTRODUCTION: The problem of inconsistent terminology in functional capacity evaluation (FCE) has been widely addressed in the international literature. Many different terms seem to be used interchangeably while other terms appear to be interpreted differently. This may seriously hinder FCE research and clinical use. To gain consensus in operational definitions in FCE and conceptual framework to classify terminology used in FCE.
METHODS: A Delphi Survey with FCE experts was conducted which consisted of three rounds of questioning, using semi and full structured questions. The expert group was formed from international experts in FCE. Experts were selected if they met any of the following criteria: at least one international publication as first author and one as co-author in the field of FCE; or an individual who had developed an FCE that was subject of investigation in at least one publication in international literature. Consensus of definitions was considered when 75% or more of all experts agreed with a definition.
RESULTS: In total, 22 international experts from 6 different countries in Australia, Europe and North America, working in different health related sectors, participated in this study.
CONCLUSION: Consensus concerning conceptual framework of FCE was met in 9 out of 20 statements. Consensus on definitions was met in 10 out of 19 definitions. Experts agreed to use the ICF as a conceptual framework in which terminology of FCE should be classified and agreed to use pre-defined terms of the ICF. No consensus was reached about the definition of FCE, for which two potential eligible definitions remained. Consensus was reached in many terms used in FCE. For future research, it was recommended that researchers use these terms, use the ICF as a conceptual framework and clearly state which definition for FCE is used because no definition of FCE was consented.