As the first medical professional liability insurer to establish a patient safety department,
The Doctors Company remains the leader in developing innovative tools that can help you reduce risk and keep your patients safe.
A medical assistant (MA) can be a versatile and valuable addition to your office practice. The MA can manage front-office functions and patient flow plus handle some clinical duties. However, relying on the MA to perform tasks outside the MA’s scope of practice can place both you and your patients at risk.
Provide adequate guidance and oversight.
Know your state’s MA scope of practice.
The MA’s scope of practice varies by state, and some states don’t address scope of practice at all. The MA generally works under the license of the supervising physician.
Do not assign the MA to telephone triage.
Only physicians or qualified staff such as an RN, an NP, or a PA should provide telephone advice. Written protocols must be utilized by the office staff and should include instructions on what questions to ask the caller, recommended responses for minor problems, and which calls to be referred immediately to a doctor.
Differentiate those tasks that only a licensed clinician should perform.
The MA cannot make independent medical assessments, triage, prescribe, renew prescriptions, or give any type of medical advice—even if asked.
Understand how to improve your MA’s practice.
By Susan Shepard, MSN, RN, Director, Patient Safety Education.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.