The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) recently made a submission to the Federal Government in response to its call for consultation on a range of health reform issues that will affect changes to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act. The APA called on the government to protect the term ‘physio’ to reassure the public that practitioners using this term are fully qualified, registered physiotherapists using evidence-informed treatments. 

Under current National Law the titles ‘physiotherapist’ and ‘physical therapist’ are already protected. The APA is seeking further protection of the term ‘physio’ in the public interest, in line with other professional bodies in New Zealand and Canada, and at the recommendation of the World Confederation For Physical Therapy, of which the APA is a member.  

In recent years there have been instances of other practitioners using the term ‘physio’ in a manner that could mislead the public into thinking the practitioner is a qualified, registered physiotherapist. This presents safety and quality risks to the public and reputational risk to the physiotherapy profession as a whole.

‘Physio’ is a term deeply ingrained in the Australian manner of speech and is used broadly throughout the community, from family conversations, discussions with medical staff and in private health insurance settings. The APA believes that as a result of its widespread use the shortened term carries exactly the same meaning as the longer form ‘physiotherapy’ and ‘physiotherapist’ terms. 

APA National President Phil Calvert has had members report instances where non-physiotherapists (both registered health care providers and non-registered) have used the term physio in their discussions with patients and families, or in their advertising. “These situations arise in hospitals and in community settings, and these people are simply misleading the public and in fact trading on the trust, evidence and strong reputation of physiotherapy as a profession.”

“This could lead to real issues of safety for patients who believe they are getting treatment that is based on physiotherapy qualifications, research, evidence and experience. It is no fluke that physios are the most recommended health practitioner by GPs, and to have other practitioners try to leverage this by using the term to imply their treatment is of the same value is simply wrong. The law must change to accommodate protecting all variations of the words ’physiotherapist’ and ‘physiotherapy’.” 


Phil Calvert is available for further comment or interview.  


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