delegation, Scope of Practice

Duties and Delegation Abroad

I field many scope-of-practice questions in my work, some of which are highly specific to the individuals posing them. Others can be applied more broadly, however. These serve as interesting material to share with readers of this blog. The following is one such question I received recently.

I practice as a medical assistant in North Carolina. I routinely travel outside the country for medical missions. As a CMA (AAMA), when working under a physician licensed in another country, am I permitted to perform the same tasks that I am allowed to perform under North Carolina law?

I responded as follows:

Thank you for your most interesting question.  Your legal scope of practice would depend on the laws of the country in which you are working.  You would not necessarily be able to perform the same tasks you are delegated in North Carolina.

However, to take your question a step further, it is my legal opinion that—if a physician licensed in North Carolina also went on such a mission trip—the physician would be permitted to delegate to you the same tasks that he/she delegates to you under North Carolina law.  This same legal principle would apply to nurse practitioners and physician assistants licensed in North Carolina.

Note that the state in question here is largely interchangeable. Were the medical assistant and physician from Oklahoma, for example, the same legal principle would apply, only specific to Oklahoma law instead of North Carolina.

medication administration, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Preparation and Administration of Injections by Medical Assistants

In the current ambulatory care environment, medical assistants are being delegated the preparation of injectable substances, as well as the administration of injections. I often receive questions about legal restrictions on medical assistants preparing injectable substances. In some states, there are specific laws that address this question. In general, it is my legal opinion that, if there is a likelihood of significant harm to a patient if an injectable substance is prepared improperly, the delegating provider must verify the identity and the dosage of the injectable substance before it is administered by the medical assistant.

CPT, CPT codes, delegation, Eligible Professionals, On the Job, Scope of Practice

CMA Today Referenced in Part B News

As many readers of this blog know, I write at length about legal issues affecting the medical assisting profession in each issue of CMA Today, the official publication of the American Association of Medical Assistants. Recently, one of those articles was referenced in a question-and-answer piece in Part B News. (Note: Subscription required.)

The write-up discusses CPT code 69209 (Removal of cerumen using irrigation/lavage) and whether the procedure can be billed if a medical assistant performs it. The author notes several important considerations—for example, the differences in state law and the vagaries of some CPT language—in addition to discussing the CPT definition of “clinical staff” as it relates to medical assistants. Ultimately, the author states the following:

In aggregate, when it comes to medical assistants being eligible to perform services incident to a physician, the answer is “generally yes,” according to recent guidance from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

The language the author cited was from my article “‘Incident-to’ billing: Medical assistants’ services under the Medicare CCM program,” which can be found on the AAMA website.

delegation, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Can Medical Assistants Oversee and Perform Physical Therapy?

Recently I fielded a question from a chiropractor in New Jersey looking to expand his practice to include services such as physical therapy. In conducting research into this matter, he had been told that in New Jersey, state law allows MDs to delegate to medical assistants full oversight and performance of physical therapy activities, as prescribed by the MD. He asked whether this was true.

In my response, I cited a recent CMA Today article that addresses this very topic:

An example of [procedures that can be delegated only to certain health professionals other than medical assistants] is physical therapy. Although some states—explicitly or implicitly—permit physicians to delegate very minor physical therapy modalities to competent and knowledgeable medical assistants working under the physician’s direct supervision, no state allows a physician to delegate the full range of physical therapy to anyone other than a licensed physical therapist.

In addition, I recommended contacting the New Jersey Board of Chiropractic Medicine to inquire whether New Jersey statutes, regulations, and policies permit doctors of chiropractic medicine to assign to unlicensed professionals such as medical assistants the overseeing of patients performing exercises assigned by an MD, and whether there are any legal limitations on this. (Similarly, I would recommend such action to chiropractors in other states, as well.)

On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Ohio Passes Senate Bill 110

I am happy to report that the Ohio Legislature has passed Senate Bill (SB) 110, which has now been signed into law by Governor John Kasich. The bill becomes effective 90 days after signing.

This bill gives nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) the ability to delegate medication administration to unlicensed allied health professionals, such as medical assistants working under their supervision in outpatient settings.

See the following relevant passages from SB 110, the first from page 20 of the attached, which is the version that has passed both Houses of the Ohio legislature:

Sec. 4723.48. (A) A clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse-midwife, or certified nurse practitioner seeking authority to prescribe drugs and therapeutic devices shall file with the board of nursing a written application for a certificate to prescribe. The board of nursing shall issue a certificate to prescribe to each applicant who meets the requirements specified in section 4723.482 or 4723.485 of the Revised Code. …

(C)(1) The holder of a certificate issued under this section may delegate to a person not otherwise authorized to administer drugs the authority to administer to a specified patient a drug, other than a controlled substance, listed in the formulary established in rules adopted under section 4723.50 of the Revised Code. The delegation shall be in accordance with division (C)(2) of this section and standards and procedures established in rules adopted under division (Q) of section 4723.07 of the Revised Code.

(2) Prior to delegating the authority, the certificate holder shall do both of the following:

(a) Assess the patient and determine that the drug is appropriate for the patient;

(b) Determine that the person to whom the authority will be delegated has met the conditions specified in division (D) of section 4723.489 of the Revised Code.

Note also the following on pages 22 and 23:

Sec. 4723.489. A person not otherwise authorized to administer drugs may administer a drug to a specified patient if all of the following conditions are met:

(A) The authority to administer the drug is delegated to the person by an advanced practice registered nurse who is a clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse-midwife, or certified nurse practitioner and holds a certificate to prescribe issued under section 4723.48 of the Revised Code.

(B) The drug is listed in the formulary established in rules adopted under section 4723.50 of the Revised Code but is not a controlled substance and is not to be administered intravenously.

(C) The drug is to be administered at a location other than a hospital inpatient care unit, as defined in section 3727.50 of the Revised Code; a hospital emergency department or a freestanding emergency department; or an ambulatory surgical facility, as defined in section 3702.30 of the Revised Code.

(D) The person has successfully completed education based on a recognized body of knowledge concerning drug administration and demonstrates to the person’s employer the knowledge, skills, and ability to administer the drug safely.

(E) The person’s employer has given the advanced practice registered nurse access to documentation, in written or electronic form, showing that the person has met the conditions specified in division (D) of this section.Sub. S. B. No. 110 131st G.A. 23

(F) The advanced practice registered nurse is physically present at the location where the drug is administered.

Note the following from pages 36 and 37:

Sec. 4730.203. (A) Acting pursuant to a supervision agreement, a physician assistant may Sub. S. B. No. 110 131st G.A. 37

delegate performance of a task to implement a patient’s plan of care or, if the conditions in division (C) of this section are met, may delegate administration of a drug. Subject to division (D) of section 4730.03 of the Revised Code, delegation may be to any person. The physician assistant must be physically present at the location where the task is performed or the drug administered.

(B) Prior to delegating a task or administration of a drug, a physician assistant shall determine that the task or drug is appropriate for the patient and the person to whom the delegation is to be made may safely perform the task or administer the drug.

(C) A physician assistant may delegate administration of a drug only if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The physician assistant has been granted physician-delegated prescriptive authority.

(2) The drug is included in the formulary established under division (A) of section 4730.39 of the Revised Code.

(3) The drug is not a controlled substance.

(4) The drug will not be administered intravenously.

(5) The drug will not be administered in a hospital inpatient care unit, as defined in section 3727.50 of the Revised Code; a hospital emergency department; a freestanding emergency department; or an ambulatory surgical facility licensed under section 3702.30 of the Revised Code.

(D) A person not otherwise authorized to administer a drug or perform a specific task may do so in accordance with a physician assistant’s delegation under this section.