In-home patient visits necessitated by COVID-19 raise questions about the scope of practice for medical assistants working off-site. For example, I received the following email from a Washington chief of primary care regarding delegation during off-site visits:
We are instituting programs where medical assistants see patients in their homes and help set them up for video visits [in response to COVID-19]. Many of our providers are requesting [laboratory work] from these appointments. [Can] a phlebotomy-certified medical assistant draw blood if a provider is not in attendance and the patient is doing a video visit with the provider?
To answer this question, note the following excerpt from the Washington statutes, especially the italicized, underlined language at the end of this excerpt:
Definitions. (Effective until July 1, 2022.)
The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
(1) “Administer” means the retrieval of medication, and its application to a patient, as authorized in RCW 18.360.050.
(2) “Delegation” means direct authorization granted by a licensed health care practitioner to a medical assistant to perform the functions authorized in this chapter which fall within the scope of practice of the health care provider and the training and experience of the medical assistant.
(3) “Department” means the department of health.
(4) “Forensic phlebotomist” means a police officer, law enforcement officer, or employee of a correctional facility or detention facility, who is certified under this chapter and meets any additional training and proficiency standards of [their] employer to collect a venous blood sample for forensic testing pursuant to a search warrant, a waiver of the warrant requirement, or exigent circumstances.
(5) “Health care practitioner” means:
(a) A physician licensed under chapter 18.71 RCW;
(b) An osteopathic physician and surgeon licensed under chapter 18.57 RCW; or
(c) Acting within the scope of their respective licensure, a podiatric physician and surgeon licensed under chapter 18.22 RCW, a registered nurse or advanced registered nurse practitioner licensed under chapter 18.79 RCW, a naturopath licensed under chapter 18.36A RCW, a physician assistant licensed under chapter 18.71A RCW, an osteopathic physician assistant licensed under chapter 18.57A RCW, or an optometrist licensed under chapter 18.53 RCW.
(6) “Medical assistant-certified” means a person certified under RCW 18.360.040 who assists a health care practitioner with patient care, executes administrative and clinical procedures, and performs functions as provided in RCW 18.360.050 under the supervision of the health care practitioner.
(7) “Medical assistant-hemodialysis technician” means a person certified under RCW 18.360.040 who performs hemodialysis and other functions pursuant to RCW 18.360.050 under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
(8) “Medical assistant-phlebotomist” means a person certified under RCW 18.360.040 who performs capillary, venous, and arterial invasive procedures for blood withdrawal and other functions pursuant to RCW 18.360.050 under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
(9) “Medical assistant-registered” means a person registered under RCW 18.360.040 who, pursuant to an endorsement by a health care practitioner, clinic, or group practice, assists a health care practitioner with patient care, executes administrative and clinical procedures, and performs functions as provided in RCW 18.360.050 under the supervision of the health care practitioner.
(10) “Secretary” means the secretary of the department of health.
(11) “Supervision” means supervision of procedures permitted pursuant to this chapter by a health care practitioner who is physically present and is immediately available in the facility. The health care practitioner does not need to be present during procedures to withdraw blood, but must be immediately available [emphasis added].
My legal opinion is that the above language permits licensed providers to assign to medical assistants who are off-site in the homes of patients the performing of phlebotomy/venipuncture as long as the delegating/overseeing provider is immediately available, such as by video or audio means.