Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity, Uncategorized

“Registered” vs. “Certified”: A Question of Terminology

A common source of confusion within medical assisting is the question of whether medical assisting credentials with “registered” in the name are superior to medical assisting credentials with “certified” in the name.

The answer to this question is no. National medical assisting credentials with the word “registered” as part of the credential name are not of a higher level status than medical assisting credentials with “certified” in their name.

This confusion may be engendered by the fact that “registered” indicates licensed status for credentials in fields other than medical assisting.  For example, in professional nursing, a “registered nurse” is a nurse who has met state educational and testing requirements, and is licensed to practice professional nursing.

However, this is not the case in medical assisting.  A medical assistant with a credential that has “registered” in its title is not in a different or higher legal category than a medical assistant with a credential that has “certified” in its title.

In fact, CMA (AAMA) certification has rigorous college-level education requirements, physician-quality exam standards, and is nationally and globally accredited, unlike other certifications and registrations.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants as Home Health Aides

Because of the great versatility of medical assistants, questions have arisen about whether medical assistants—especially CMAs (AAMA)—are permitted to work as home health aides (HHAs).

Most states have laws defining what qualifications an individual must have in order to work as a home health aide.  These laws also assign responsibility for the HHA program to an existing state agency, such as the department of health.  CMAs (AAMA) would have the opportunity to ask this agency whether their education in a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting program, and their demonstration of didactic knowledge by passing the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination, would meet or exceed the requirements of the home health aide law.  If the agency accepts the CMA (AAMA) credential in lieu of home health aide training, the CMA (AAMA) would then be able to work as an HHA.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants as Scribes

Recently I received the following first-time question:

Is it illegal for a medical assistant to also function as the physician’s scribe? The office manager told me that a new law states that a medical assistant either can function as a scribe or as a medical assistant, but cannot assume both roles.

I am not aware of any state or federal laws that forbid a medical assistant from also functioning as the physician’s scribe. Medical assistants who have graduated from a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting program and who hold a current CMA (AAMA) credential should be knowledgeable in scribing for the physician or other provider.

Accreditation, Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential

Educational Requirements for Different Medical Assisting Credentials

I have received questions to the following effect: “Which medical assisting academic programs are ‘CMA (AAMA) programs,’ and which are ‘RMA(AMT) programs’?”

This is an imprecise way to frame the question.  It is better to ask what the eligibility pathways are for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination, and for the RMA(AMT) Examination.

Applicants for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination for initial certification must be graduates of CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) accredited medical assisting programs, and must meet the other requirements established by the Certifying Board of the AAMA. (Information regarding such programs can be found on the AAMA website.)

There are five eligibility routes for the RMA(AMT) Examination.  One of the five is the education route.  Note the following from the website of AMT:

Graduated from an accredited MA program (ROUTE 1–Education)

  • Training programs must be accredited by an agency approved by the DOE
  • Training programs must have 720 clock hours of instruction, including at least 160 clock hours of externship
  • If graduated more than 4 years ago, must also have 3 out of the last 5 years of work experience as an MA in both clinical and administrative areas

Consequently, in addition to graduates of CAAHEP and ABHES accredited medical assisting programs, graduates of medical assisting programs in schools that are accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education (DOE), and that have the required clock hours of instruction and externship specified above, are eligible for the RMA(AMT) Examination.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Breaking News: Proposed CMS Rule is Favorable for CMAs (AAMA)

On March 20, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Stage 3 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs.  I am pleased to report that the Proposed Objective for computerized provider order entry (CPOE) in the NPRM is very favorable for credentialed medical assistants such as CMAs (AAMA).  Note the following excerpts from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

Proposed Objective: Use computerized provider order entry (CPOE) for medication, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging orders directly entered by any licensed healthcare professional, credentialed medical assistant, or a medical staff member credentialed to and performing the equivalent duties of a credentialed medical assistant; who can enter orders into the medical record per state, local, and professional guidelines.…

In Stage 3, we propose to continue the policy from the Stage 2 final rule at

77 FR 53986 that orders entered by any licensed healthcare professional or credentialed medical assistant would count toward this objective. A credentialed medical assistant may enter orders if they are credentialed to perform the duties of a medical assistant by a credentialing body other than the employer. If a staff member of the eligible provider is appropriately credentialed and performs assistive services similar to a medical assistant, but carries a more specific title due to either specialization of their duties or to the specialty of the medical professional they assist, orders entered by that staff member would be included in this objective. We further note that medical staff whose organizational or job title, or the title of their credential, is other than medical assistant may enter orders if these staff are credentialed to perform the equivalent duties of a credentialed medical assistant by a credentialing body other than their employer and perform such duties as part of their organizational or job title. We defer to the provider’s discretion to determine the appropriateness of the credentialing of staff to ensure that any staff entering orders have the clinical training and knowledge required to enter orders for CPOE.…

However, as stated in the Stage 2 final rule at 77 FR 53986, it is apparent that the prevalent time when CDS [Clinical Decision Support] interventions are presented is when the order is entered into CEHRT [Certified Electronic Health Record Technology], and that not all EHRs also present CDS when the order is authorized (assuming such a multiple step ordering process is in place). This means that the person entering the order would be required to enter the order correctly, evaluate a CDS intervention either using their own judgment or through accurate relay of the information to the ordering provider, and then either make a change to the order based on the information provided by the CDS intervention or bypass the intervention. The execution of this role represents a significant impact on patient safety; therefore, we continue to maintain for Stage 3 that a layperson is not qualified to perform these tasks. [Emphasis added]

The full document can be found here. I will provide further excerpts and summaries later this week and next week.