Scope of Practice

Forging Ahead in Washington State

Greetings, everyone! Key health care leaders in the state of Washington conducted a sunrise hearing regarding continuing confusion over the “health care assistant” category in Washington law and the medical assisting profession.

Dr. Dean Martz, president of the Washington State Medical Association stated that “Medical assistants are the vital glue that keeps medical practices running smoothly.” He stated that “the association has heard a loud and clear message statewide to fix the current situation.” Dr. Martz enumerated the strongest reasons that the roles of medical assistants need to be better defined in practices and the government. With impending health care reform and increasing demand for health care services, medical assistants will need to continue to fill an important role for health care delivery teams.

I was able to second this urgent call for improved legislation in the state. There is no other state that has a health care assistant type of regulation. Health care assisting is not a profession, but a statutorily created category from the early 1980s to address a specific problem. However, the issue is that because the health care assistant law just addresses blood withdrawal and injections, the interpretation by the department has been that no other duties that can be delegated to medical assistants. There is no other state with that type of regulatory system.

There is a great need for recognizing the abilities of medical assistants. States have taken that action to ensure medical assistants will be able to work to the top of their training and education and will free up other health care professionals to concentrate on their areas of concern.

Stay tuned for further developments. I will share more thoughts in the AAMA’s upcoming Nov/Dec 2011 CMA Today magazine.