The Physiotherapist Directory: How the “Find a Physiotherapist” Search Function Works

  •   August 9, 2019

For many years, Physiotherapy Alberta has had the “Find a Physiotherapist” or physiotherapist directory on our website. It was created to help patients and public connect with the best person to address their physiotherapy needs. Physiotherapists select their main practice areas and they are then mapped to a corresponding condition.

We are always working to refine the search function to better address this goal. This year, in response to member feedback and in conjunction with other changes to the member portal and website, we have undertaken a more significant review and update to the practice areas and the conditions listed in the directory that relate to these practice areas.

Underlying principles

  • Physiotherapy Alberta will make a reasonable effort to connect patients with the best person to treat their condition.
  • The conditions treated list must have meaning to the public.
  • All members will be able to “see themselves” within at least one practice area listed.
  • Members are strongly encouraged to ensure their selections reflect those areas that are their primary practice areas or areas of clinical focus and competence.

Although physiotherapists may see the directory as a marketing tool, Physiotherapy Alberta and patients alike view the search function as a public service. Consider this scenario, a real call Physiotherapy Alberta recently received, to better understand what we are talking about:

Mary (not her real name) has ankle osteoarthritis and is seeking a physiotherapist. While OA is a common condition that basically any physiotherapist should be able to treat, Mary wants to see someone who works primarily with people who have OA, and preferably someone who sees a lot of ankle problems.

Under the current physiotherapist directory listings, Mary searched under “orthopedics” to find a physiotherapist working in a community setting who could treat her. Her search turned up 1,800 physiotherapists. She tried searching under “general practice” as well and found 1,300 clinicians. Admittedly, she could narrow her search by using her postal code or city of residence, but even if she does so, the directory still turns up far too many people.

How is she supposed to narrow her search and identify someone who can help her?

Physiotherapy Alberta receives calls from people like Mary every day. Our goal is to connect these callers, and countless others who access the online physiotherapist directory, with useful suggestions of where to go for help.

There’s more to the story - practice areas and conditions treated explained

Physiotherapists have an obligation under the Health Professions Act to maintain current employer and practice information in their registration record. If a physiotherapist changes practice locations or employers, or their practice focus, they are required to update their member profile within 30 days of making the change. All physiotherapists must review this information at least once a year (usually at the time of registration renewal) to confirm the accuracy of the employer, practice location and practice focus information in their member profile.

Members choose from a pre-determined list when reporting their practice area(s). To facilitate the collection of consistent national physiotherapist workforce data, this list aligns with the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s (CIHI) Physiotherapist Database. Physiotherapy Alberta and other Canadian physiotherapy regulators contribute to this database, to aid in health workforce planning and related research.

Physiotherapy Alberta also uses the employer and practice information provided by members to populate its online “Find A Physiotherapist” search function. As the CIHI database terms are not always “public friendly” they are converted to the “Conditions Treated” list for this search function. Information is collected once and used twice.

You report a practice area VS how it appears as a condition treated

Example 1: A member indicates their primary practice area is Cardiac Rehabilitation/Care OR Respiratory Care; therefore, their name appears in the conditions treated search results for Cardiac Rehabilitation, Heart Conditions, Lung Conditions, Pulmonary Rehabilitation, COPD/Emphysema AND Asthma.

Example 2: A member indicates their primary practice area is Rheumatology therefore their name appears in the conditions treated search results for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia, AND Psoriatic Arthritis.


Practice Area (What the member chooses) Conditions Treated (What the public sees)
Amputations  Amputations
Burns and Wound Management Burns
Wound Care
Cardiac Rehabilitation/Care
Respiratory Care
Cardiac Rehabilitation
Heath Conditions
Lung Conditions
Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
Health Promotion and Wellness
Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
Health Promotion and Wellness
Chronic Pain Chronic Pain
Concussion Concussion
Critical Care Critical Care
Intensive Care
Return to Work Rehabilitation
Workstation Modification and Ergonomics
Return to Work Rehabilitation
Functinal Capacity Assessment
Gerontology Senior's Health
Inpatient General Practice (Facility-Based) Inpatient General Practice (Hospital, Community, Health Center, Long-Term Care)
Motor Vehicle Collision Injuries Motor Vehicle Collison Injuries
Neurology (Adults) Brain Injury
Multiple sclerosis
Parkinson's disease
Spinal Cord Injury
Neurology (Pediatrics) Cerebral Palsy
Developmental Disorders
Spina Bifida
Oncology Cancer Care and Rehabilitation
Osteoporosis Osteoporosis
Outpatient Orthopedic Practice (General) Outpatient Orthopedic Practice (Lower Extremety) Joint Replacement Rehabilitation
Hip Pain and Injuries
Knee Pain and Injuries
Leg Pain
Foot Pain
Plantar Fasciitis
Outpaient Orthopedic Practice (Spine) Back Pain and Injuries
Neck Pain and Injuries
Outpatient Orthopedic Practice (Upper Extremity) Arm Pain
Shoulder Pain and Injuries
Elbow Pain and Injuries
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Palliative Care Palliative Care
Pelvic Health (Internal Examinations) Fecal Incontinence
Pelvic Pain and Disorders
Pre- or Postnatal Care
Urinary Incontinence
Plastics/Hands Hand Surgery (e.g., Tendon Repair)
Hand Pain and Injuries
Rheumatology Rheumatoid Arthritis
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Psoriatic Arthritis
Scoliosis Scoliosis
Sports Medicine Sports Injuries
TMD TMD/TMJ (Temporomandibular Pain and Injuries)
Vestibular Rehabilitation Dizziness and Balance Problems
Vestibular Rehabilitation

Note that when you go to renew, there will be more practice areas to choose from that are not listed on this list. That is because they do not correspond to a “condition” that a patient would search for. These are often “non-clinical” areas such as administration, education, etc.

Going back to our first example, we’ve tried to split up some of the larger Practice Areas and Conditions Treated groupings into smaller categories, so that someone like Mary would be better able to pinpoint the right physiotherapist to treat their condition.

If we want to achieve that goal, we need physiotherapists to carefully consider their skills and the patients they serve, and to identify their primary practice areas. What selection or combination of selections best reflect your area of practice, skills and interests?

  • If you spend 70% of your time in one practice area, choose it first!
  • If you spend 100% of your time working with one patient population, that’s the only practice area you choose.
  • If you split your time evenly over four practice areas, go ahead and choose all four.
  • If you work in the only clinic for 100 km and treat everyone and everything that comes through the door, you are a general practitioner! Choose Outpatient Orthopedic Practice – General.
  • Conversely, if you love to treat shoulders, and happily spend all day working with that population you should choose Outpatient Orthopedic Practice – Upper Extremity.

If I don’t indicate a practice area in my member profile, does that mean I can’t treat patients in that group?

No. Physiotherapists can provide any physiotherapy service which they are competent and authorized to provide. The practice areas and conditions treated information should encapsulate most of the patient groups that you serve, but it is not intended to restrict practice or prevent physiotherapists from providing treatments that they are competent to provide.

There are a lot of outpatient practice areas and relatively few inpatient practice areas. Why?

Physiotherapy Alberta knows that inpatient practice is diverse and clustering inpatient practice into big buckets, such as “Inpatient General Practice.” is likely not a fair representation of that diversity. However, most members of the public do not use the search function to find clinicians who provide inpatient, facility-based services. The category was created to align with the principle that all members could ‘see themselves’ in at least one category, not to reflect the diversity of that category.

From a CIHI perspective general practice is a single category, whether it’s inpatient general practice or outpatient general practice (CIHI does not collect information to this detail). We divided those two groups to better serve the public who use the search function.  

Other details physiotherapists need to know:

  1. Updated Daily at 11 p.m.

The “Find a Physiotherapist” search function uses data from member’s registration record. Changes made to your registration record appear in the search results at 11 p.m.

  1. Accuracy and Completeness of Search Results

Is the employment and practice information in your registration record current/accurate? Login to your online account (Member Profile) and ensure your employment and practice information is current. A comprehensive and helpful search result depends on all members maintaining current information. Physiotherapy Alberta staff can help if you have questions or difficulty updating your information. 780.438.0338 | 1.800.291.2782 |

  1. Verify a Physiotherapist

The “Verify a Physiotherapist” search function continues to be updated in real-time and is recommended for use by employers and new members to verify registration status. It is also commonly used by third-party payers seeking to verify a physiotherapist’s registration status and authorized activities.