So what’s the biggest issue facing physical therapy today? Insurance payments? Medicare Therapy Cap? Direct access? These are absolutely the most prominent topics our profession has discussed and faced recently. However, the issue of term protection remains something left entirely to each individual state. I believe we need to make term protection a federal issue. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Let’s see how the APTA is tackling the term protection issue. This statement explains how the terms “physical therapy,” “physiotherapy,” “PT,” and “DPT” should be protected titles used only by those licensed in the field. That sounds fair, right? As physical therapists, we cannot use “MD” after our name, or say we practice chiropractic. Yet, many physicians and chiropractors claim they can practice physical therapy. This seems like a huge disconnect from the rest of the healthcare world.
By allowing other providers to use “physical therapy” as part of their offered treatments, we are allowing our profession to be lowered to nothing more than a service. With the already prominent issue of branding our profession, this certainly creates a negative perception of who we are and what we do. For example, look at this screenshot from a chiropractic website. They place physiotherapy under “Chiropractic Treatment” they provide!
Now, I am not at all insinuating chiropractors cannot educate their patients on appropriate treatments for their condition. However, this image shows that PTs are seen as providers of a service, as opposed to a well-respected profession. To put it simply, we are allowing ourselves to be misrepresented to patients by the healthcare complex as a whole. This is the exact reason why I believe term protection needs to be brought to the forefront of our federal advocacy campaign.
So what’s the best way to tackle this issue, since legislators likely have little knowledge on this problem? Aside from calling and speaking to them directly (which you should absolutely do), the APTA distributed a clever advertisement that is clear and easy to understand. These solutions apply on a federal as well as a state level. We have to start somewhere right?
If you are not confident this would be successful in your state, check out what’s been done in Virginia and Massachusetts. It can be done! In fact, many states already have some form of term/title protection in place. Here’s a convenient chart that shows the breakdown by state (updated 2014). Even the World Confederation of Physical Therapy has policies that recognize the need for worldwide term protection for physical therapists.