covid-19, Scope of Practice

Federal Policy and the Pandemic: How the Pandemic and Changes in Federal Policy Have Expanded Medical Assistants’ Scope of Practice

Medical assistants’ role and duties have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, federal agencies and state governors have made necessary changes to expand medical assistants’ legal scope of practice to meet new health care needs.

In the March/April 2021 Public Affairs article in CMA Today, I discuss how these government actions have changed the knowledge, skills, and professional attributes and behaviors medical assistants are now expected to have and to demonstrate, particularly in these areas:

  • Telehealth
  • Nasopharyngeal swabbing
  • COVID-19 vaccination administration

Learn more about how recent federal policy has affected medical assistants’ scope of practice by reading “Federal Policy and the Pandemic: How the Pandemic and Changes in Federal Policy Have Expanded Medical Assistants’ Scope of Practice” on the AAMA website.

On the Job, Scope of Practice

CDC Affirms Medical Assistants’ Role in Telehealth

In a recent guidance on how to expand access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirmed that medical assistants and other health care professionals are permitted to interact with patients by several means. Note the following from this guidance:

Telehealth Modalities

Several telehealth modalities allow [health care personnel] and patients to connect using technology to deliver health care:

Synchronous: This includes real-time telephone or live audio-video interaction typically with a patient using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

In some cases, peripheral medical equipment (e.g., digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, ultrasounds) can be used by another HCP (e.g., nurse, medical assistant [italics added]) physically with the patient, while the consulting medical provider conducts a remote evaluation [emphasis added in red].

Asynchronous: This includes “store and forward” technology where messages, images, or data are collected at one point in time and interpreted or responded to later. Patient portals can facilitate this type of communication between provider and patient through secure messaging.

Remote patient monitoring: This allows direct transmission of a patient’s clinical measurements from a distance (may or may not be in real time) to their healthcare [sic.] provider.

Additionally, in its Telehealth Implementation Playbook, the American Medical Association listed ways in which medical assistants can use telehealth to help their overseeing physician/provider:


Be familiar with the conditions and situations that are appropriate for a telehealth visit

Educate patients on telehealth expectations

Support patient troubleshooting related to platform pre-visit and during visit

Let [the] doctor know when a patient has “checked in” for a telehealth appointment (if platform does not include this feature)