I am an old-timer in the health care field. I keep hearing about the new ICF model for treating patients. At first, I didn't pay much attention, but now it seems like it's in every journal I read. What can you tell me about it?
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health or ICF was first approved by the World Health Organization's (WHO) Health Assembly in 2001. It was the result of the collaborative efforts of many experts around the world. The purpose of the ICF is to provide a model of human functioning. As a classification scheme, it has many categories and can be used as a tool to describe the severity and course of a physical condition or disease that affects a person's function and ability. It's a model that can be adopted and used by health care workers around the world. Having a common tool of this type will make it possible to conduct and report on research in the same way worldwide. In this new classification scheme, the focus has shifted from assessing, measuring, and talking about impairments, disabilities, and handicaps to now focus on body functions and structures and activities and participation. Two other components within the ICF classifications include environmental and personal factors. Each of these five components also have subsets or qualifiers to help define the level of functioning and health for the patient problem being described or evaluated. A scale from zero (no problem) to four (complete problem) is used to then quantify (give a number or percentage for) the subset. Shifting to this new classification scheme will give everyone a common language to discuss health and ability (not disability) for patients with chronic and complex problems. Setting goals, planning treatment, and evaluating results will be framed in a positive light now. Communication within the health care team and with the patient will be improved by the use of language everyone can understand.