ICF – A New Look at Humanity

On 17 June 2014, an international scientific conference “ICF – A New Look at Humanity” was held in the headquarters of the Polish Social Insurance Fund (ZUS). The conference was organised by the Polish Association of Medical Certification (PTOL). The Polish Insurance Association, in cooperation with the World Health Organisation and ZUS, acted as co-organisers. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour and Social Policy were the honorary patrons of the event.

The event was hosted both by Polish and international speakers. Its purpose was to discuss the profits from implementing the ICF classification and sharing the knowledge on this subject. The conference hosted over 250 individuals, including the representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, medical examiners, expert witnesses and delegates of other circles interested in introducing the ICF classification.

The conference was open by Professor Anna Wilmowska-Pietruszyńska (PTOL) who stressed out that the implementation of ICF will allow for proper evaluation of the injured parties’ condition and for comparability in the groups of people who have the same symptoms and disabilities, regardless of the illness diagnosis, their place of residence or status. At the same time, she noted that ICF is a tool offering the possibility of classifying the illnesses, injuries or disabilities, and is needed by the injured parties, doctors and public authorities paying for treatment.

Then spoke Jarosław Duda, the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Government Plenipotentiary for the Disabled. He expressed his hope that ICF will change the Polish case law and will become part of the Polish judiciary system forever. Igor Radziewicz-Winnicki, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Health indicated the core assumptions of the ICF classification being the best way to harmonise the Polish case law and care over the people in need. Zbigniew Derdziuk, the President of ZUS, said that upon establishing a common language of damages description, i.e. through ICF, some integrated activities must be undertaken with regards to rehabilitation and treatment. Jan Grzegorz Prądzyński, the President of the Management Board of PIU, underlined that not having even a minimal standard of evaluating the non-material damages leads to uncertainty both among the damaged parties and the insurance companies. Paulina Miśkiewicz, the director of the WHO Office in Poland, supported all the above opinions, seeing the ICF classification as the source of benefits for many circles.

Then the invited speakers started their lectures. Jerome Bickenbach, member of the Steering Committee of the Research Section of ICF, explained the meaning of the ICF classification. In his opinion, the ICF classification indicates how to stay in good health and how to allow injured persons to regain their health after accidents. Soren Brage, the Chief Medical Consultant at the Research Department of the Norwegian Labour and Social Care Directorate, discussed the issue of implementing ICF into the social insurance systems. He stressed out that the absence of employees is often caused by accidents and illnesses. ICF may offer the solution for this kind of situations. The advantages of applying ICF in medical certification were discussed by Urban Schwegler from the Institute for Research on Paraplegia in Switzerland. As he noted, introducing changes means costs but it pays back in the longer perspective. Witold Dudziński, the President of the Management Board of the Rehasport Clinic, underlined that the quality of human life is determined by many factors, not only by the state of health. Therefore, it is important that the ill individuals are noticed and obtain care not only from their close families but also from the “neighbours”, i.e. from other persons. Then spoke Roman Zdarek, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Medical Law Academy in Prague, who described the methods of applying ICF in evaluating non-material damages in the Czech Republic including the guidelines establishing the precise amounts of performances. The abolition of the regulation binding for almost 15 years, containing the precise catalogue of payments for non-material damages, made the Czech Supreme Court prepare new methodology, created together with insurance companies.

Both conference parts were closed with discussion panels, addressing the issues of advantages and challenges related to implementing ICF (moderator: Julita Czyżewska – Director in the PZU S.A. Group) and to using ICF in evaluation of non-material damages (moderator: Dorota M. Fal – Advisor to the Management Board of PIU). Speakers from Poland and from abroad participated in the panels, including Professor Jolanta Kujawa – PTOL, Ewa Jezierewska – Head of the Corporate Loss Adjustment at STU Ergo Hestia S.A., Jakub Pokrzywniak – Partner in Kancelaria Wierciński Kwieciński Baehr, Piotr Winciunas – Vice-Director of the Medical Examination Department at ZUS.

The Polish legislation was discussed, as it does not regulate the basis for establishing the amount of compensation. Therefore, the courts’ support is needed, along with the support of social insurers and of commercial insurance companies together with other institutions. Changes need to be introduced to unify the Polish judiciary and bring order into it. It was noted that in the opinions of courts the insurance companies have funds for paying the compensation, while not much consideration is given to what should be done so that the injured parties could return to work and enjoy their lives. It was also said that there are no limitations in the Polish law for aiming at predictability of court judgements regarding compensations. ICF could serve this purpose. It was also noted that using the classification for evaluating the health condition and its further effect on the individual’s life is significant for the proper functioning of the healthcare system as well as of the social policy system and social and commercial insurance systems. Educational and economic issues of ICF were also addressed.

It was agreed that, undoubtedly, it was necessary to introduce solutions facilitating the work of courts, of insurance companies, insurers, evaluators and of those who offer fast help to the injured parties. This solution could be the international ICF classification.


The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health – Jerome Bickenbach, Swiss Paraplegic Research and University of Lucerne, Switzerland
Implementation of ICF social security – Søren Brage MD, PhD, Research unit, Directorate for Labour and Welfare Oslo
The utility of the ICF in medical work capacity evaluation – Urban Schwegler, MSc Empowerment, Participation and Social Integration Unit, Swiss Paraplegic Research
The ICF´s usage for assessment of damages immaterial harm in the Czech Republic – Roman Žďárek, Charles University, 1st Medical Faculty