As defined by Donald Basala, JD, MBA, the CEO and Chief Legal Counsel of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), “Medical assistants are allied health professionals who work predominately under licensed provider authority in outpatient settings—including outpatient departments of primarily inpatient institutions. Medical assistants may be delegated certain clinical, patient-communication, and administrative tasks by licensed providers. The category of licensed providers most often includes physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.”1
Within nearly all medical practices, the role of the medical assistant (MA) is essential for effective operations and patient care. When utilized properly within their legal scope of practice, a knowledgeable and skilled MA can improve workflow and productivity, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce provider and staff burnout. In addition to managing front-office functions, MAs can perform limited clinical duties. Relying on an MA to perform tasks outside the state’s defined legal scope of practice can, however, place both the provider and the patient at risk. It can also compromise patient safety and result in adverse patient outcomes and claims.
Scope of Practice
Because an MA’s scope of practice varies by state, regulations may include very specific lists of approved and unapproved activities. Conversely, some states do not address MA scope of practice at all, and the MA generally works under the license of the supervising provider. Consider these strategies to help your MAs stay within their designated boundaries:
Only physicians or qualified licensed staff, such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants, should provide telephone advice. Office staff must use written protocols and standing orders that include instructions on standard questions to ask the caller, recommended responses for minor problems, and which calls to refer immediately to a licensed provider. For more information, see our article, “Telephone Triage and Medical Advice Protocols.”
MAs cannot—under any circumstances—make independent medical assessments, triage, prescribe, renew prescriptions, or give any type of medical advice. Consider the following recommendations:
Training and Oversight
The following strategies can help ensure adequate training and oversight for the MAs in your practice:
Enhance safety with these risk mitigation strategies:
Continuing Education and Additional Assistance
We offer complimentary on-demand courses that can help you reduce risk and improve safety. Some courses can also help office staff enhance patient relations, manage challenging patients, and improve teamwork communication. For a complete catalog, visit our Education and CME page.
For additional guidance, contact the Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management at (800) 421-2368 or by email.
What role should the medical assistant take on concerning communications when working with patients quizlet?
what role should the medical assistant take on concerning communications when working with patients? The medical assistant should take on the role of communication liaison. It is necessary to promote information exchanges between the provider and the patient.
How can a medical assistant communicate caring to a patient?
The medical assistant can communicate caring to a patient by listening carefully and allowing the patient to express himself or herself completely. Caring can also be expressed nonverbally by sitting or standing at the same level, at a comfortable distance, and by maintaining eye contact.
What is the most common communication error in patient care?
The most common communication failures between clinicians involve the miscommunication of important information about a patient's symptoms or condition and poor documentation of patient information.
How should a medical assistant communicate with an elderly patient?
Medical assistants must provide clear and concise information to these patients in a way they can understand. If you tend to speak quickly, you should try to slow down and speak clearly with your elderly patients, especially if you have an accent that is different from what your patients are used to hearing.