Using the Functional Comorbidity Index with administrative workers' compensation data: utility, validity, and caveats

Publication type
Journal article
Sears JM, Rundell SD, Fulton-Kehoe D, Hogg-Johnson S, Franklin GM
Date published
2024 Jan 01
American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
Open Access?

Background: Chronic health conditions impact worker outcomes but are challenging to measure using administrative workers' compensation (WC) data. The Functional Comorbidity Index (FCI) was developed to predict functional outcomes in community-based adult populations, but has not been validated for WC settings. We assessed a WC-based FCI (additive index of 18 conditions) for identifying chronic conditions and predicting work outcomes. Methods: WC data were linked to a prospective survey in Ohio (N = 512) and Washington (N = 2,839). Workers were interviewed 6 weeks and 6 months after work-related injury. Observed prevalence and concordance were calculated; survey data provided the reference standard for WC data. Predictive validity and utility for control of confounding were assessed using 6-month work-related outcomes. Results: The WC-based FCI had high specificity but low sensitivity and was weakly associated with work-related outcomes. The survey-based FCI suggested more comorbidity in the Ohio sample (Ohio mean = 1.38; Washington mean = 1.14), whereas the WC-based FCI suggested more comorbidity in the Washington sample (Ohio mean = 0.10; Washington mean = 0.33). In the confounding assessment, adding the survey-based FCI to the base model moved the state effect estimates slightly toward null (<1% change). However, substituting the WC-based FCI moved the estimate away from null (8.95% change). Conclusions: The WC-based FCI may be useful for identifying specific subsets of workers with chronic conditions, but less useful for chronic condition prevalence. Using the WC-based FCI cross-state appeared to introduce substantial confounding. We strongly advise caution-including state-specific analyses with a reliable reference standard-before using a WC-based FCI in studies involving multiple states