Skip navigation

We’ve launched our Expert Advisory Panel - read more about the Innovation Agenda here.

What’s in a name?

In this time of COVID-19, telehealth has exploded. Or is that telerehabilitation? Digital physiotherapy practice? Virtual practice? Does anyone know what to call this stuff?

Telemedicine has been around in some form since the early twentieth century when radio was used to provide medical advice to sailors who were out at sea.[1] In the following century other health services began to operate over distances giving rise to teleradiology, telepathology and telepharmacology.

Within the Canadian physiotherapy profession, the term telepractice was commonly used in the 1990s and 2000s. Over the next decade, the profession shifted to using the term telerehabilitation while in the United States, physiotherapy regulators used the term telehealth in their publications.

In a 2019 joint INPTRA/WCPT white paper, the task force noted that “globally, the term digital practice is superseding and encompassing the term “tele” as it is more representative of the range of technologies [utilized in] practice and services models.”[2]

But only a year later, as COVID restrictions encouraged physiotherapists to deliver services at a distance, Fiona Campbell, physiotherapist practice adviser with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, noted that ‘virtual practice’ or ‘virtual rehab’ were overwhelmingly the terms that current physiotherapist registrants were using in their inquiries to the college.

The field is changing quickly and as physiotherapy regulators revisit the Memorandum of Understanding on Cross-border Services, they may need to update their terms once again. Do you, our stakeholders, have an opinion? Drop us a line at


[1] accessed May 21, 2020

[2] Report of the WCPT/INPTRA Digital Physical Therapy Practice Task Force, May 15, 2019