delegation, On the Job, Scope of Practice

New Alaska Standards for Delegation of Certain Duties

The Alaska State Medical Board has added a new section to its regulations that establishes standards and conditions under which a licensed physician (doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine), podiatrist, or physician assistant may delegate certain medical duties to unlicensed professionals such as medical assistants.

These regulations remove any ambiguity from the assertion that knowledgeable and competent unlicensed allied health professionals such as medical assistants can legally perform intramuscular (IM), subcutaneous (subq), and intradermal (ID) injections delegated by a licensed provider under the provider’s direct/on-site supervision.

The regulations of the Alaska State Medical Board were finalized November 25, 2019, and went into effect December 25, 2019.

You can read the regulations by either accessing the December 2019 medical statues and regulations document (Page 37) via the Alaska State Medical Board webpage or the Alaska section of the AAMA State Scope of Practice Laws webpage on the AAMA website.

This is a significant scope of practice victory in Alaska, and I congratulate the Alaska Medical Assistant Society for its excellent and diligent work on strengthening and clarifying medical assistants’ right to practice!

delegation, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants and Vaccination Administration under Pharmacists

Improving vaccination rates and lessening vaccination hesitancy is a top priority for all health care professionals. Medical assistants are in a prime position to help, but the exact nature of their role requires some legal considerations.

Consider the following situation:

I own a pharmacy in which pharmacists administer influenza vaccinations. Could I hire a medical assistant to help us administer these influenza shots, or is it required that medical assistants work only under the supervision of a physician?

Most often, medical assistants work under the authority and supervision of licensed providers such as physicians (doctors of medicine or osteopathic medicine), nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in outpatient settings. However, state laws generally do not prohibit other licensed health care professionals (such as podiatrists, dentists, optometrists, and pharmacists) from employing medical assistants and delegating legally permitted tasks to them.

In response to your specific question, it is necessary to check the pharmacy practice act of your state—and the regulations and policies of the state board of pharmacy—to ascertain which allied health professionals (if any) may be delegated the administration of influenza vaccinations by a pharmacist. It is also necessary to determine the degree of supervision pharmacists must exercise over allied health professionals who are administering influenza vaccinations. I suspect the pharmacy law of your state requires delegating pharmacists to exercise on-site supervision over professionals who are administering influenza vaccinations.

If you’d like to know more about your specific state laws, visit the State Scope of Practice Laws webpage on the AAMA website.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, delegation, On the Job, Professional Identity

Appropriate Use Criteria Program: CMAs (AAMA)® Meet Clinical Staff Criteria under the CMS Rule

In the Public Affairs article of the March/April 2018 CMA Today, I argued that “appropriately educated and credentialed medical assistants” such as CMAs (AAMA)® are clinical staff under the Medicare Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Transitional Care Management (TCM) programs.

I now add that CMAs (AAMA) are also clinical staff according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rule regarding the appropriate use criteria (AUC) program. Therefore, as a result of their clinical staff status, I assert that CMAs (AAMA) are permitted to do the following:

  1. Consult a clinical decision support mechanism (CDSM) about the appropriateness of ordering a particular advanced diagnostic imaging service
  2. Report findings to their overseeing or delegating licensed providers

Review the supporting evidence in the September/October 2019 Public Affairs article, “Appropriate Use Criteria Program,” on the AAMA website.

delegation, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants and Fetal Nonstress Test Monitors

State laws are the best place to look for guidance on medical assisting scope of practice, but they are sometimes less thorough than desired. For cases such as those, consider the following:

We have some CMAs (AAMA) and RMAs(AMT) assisting physicians who are providing obstetrical services. The physicians delegate to the medical assistants the hooking up of patients to fetal nonstress test monitors. The medical assistants do not interpret the results of the fetal nonstress test. Is this delegation permitted by Minnesota law?

Based on my research, hooking up a patient to a fetal nonstress test monitor is a straightforward, repeatable process that does not require (1) the knowledge or skill or a licensed health care professional, (2) the exercise of independent clinical judgment, or (3) the making of clinical assessments. Therefore, my legal opinion is that this task is likely delegable to knowledgeable and competent unlicensed allied health professionals such as medical assistants working under direct/onsite physician supervision.

The delegating physicians should reverify periodically (perhaps every 12 months) the knowledge and skill of the medical assistants performing this task and should document in writing each medical assistant’s current competence in this task.

It may also be advisable to request a written opinion from the practice’s malpractice insurance carrier stating that it would cover any negligence by a medical assistant in hooking up a patient to a fetal nonstress test monitor.

delegation, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Relaying Providers’ Orders by Telephone

Part of the AAMA’s mission is to protect medical assistants’ scope of practice. Sometimes that means gathering evidence to prove that what other health professionals think is a limitation of medical assistants’ scope of practice is unsubstantiated by state law. Consider the following from a medical assistant in Wisconsin:

I work in a small physician-owned clinic. Our primary care providers visit two local skilled nursing facilities each month. … [Does] our state permit nurses to take a provider’s order by telephone that is conveyed by a medical assistant? These telephone orders are always followed up by a written electronic order from the provider. [But] we are being told that nursing home staff will only take telephone orders directly from licensed health professionals.

Why would this be any different from a provider directing one of our medical assistants to convey a normal lab value? Our providers would spend all day calling the nursing homes if medical assistants cannot relay information at the request of the provider. If the nursing home staff members do not understand the order, they can always ask for clarification from one of our providers.

I reviewed the nurse practice act and the regulations and policies of Wisconsin’s state board of nursing. I found nothing stating that registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are prohibited from receiving and executing orders from a licensed provider (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) that are transmitted verbatim by telephone by an unlicensed allied health professional, such as a medical assistant.

Unless state law specifically indicates otherwise, my legal opinion is that knowledgeable and competent medical assistants are permitted to convey verbatim information (including orders) on behalf of the delegating provider and receive verbatim information for the overseeing provider. Information conveyed by telephone should be followed up by a written order (electronic or hard copy).