On May 12, 2009, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law amendments to the Medical Practice Act of the State of Georgia that clarify and protect the authority of physicians to delegate to medical assistants. This is a significant victory for the Georgia State Society of Medical Assistants and for the medical assisting profession because of increasing ambiguities in recent years over the right to practice in Georgia. The following section was inserted into the Medical Practice Act:

43-34-44.

Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit the performance by medical assistants of medical tasks, including subcutaneous and intramuscular injections; obtaining vital signs; administering nebulizer treatments; or other tasks approved by the board pursuant to rule, if under the supervision by a physician in his or her office; provided, however, that this shall not require on-site supervision at all times, or the performance by medical assistants of medical tasks ordered by a physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse delegated the authority to issue such an order in accordance with law and pursuant to rules of the board.

In addition to the specific reference to subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, vital signs, and nebulizer treatments, the new statutory language authorizes the Georgia Composite Medical Board to authorize by rule other tasks that can be delegated “under the supervision by a physician in his or her office.”

 

Other language of the Medical Practice Act protecting the right to practice was left in the law. Note the following:

43-34-22.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit:

(8) The utilization of a physician assistant to perform tasks approved by the board, and the performance of such tasks by the physician assistant; the delegation by a physician to a qualified person other than a physician assistant of any acts, duties, or functions which are otherwise permitted by law or established by custom; and the performance of such acts, duties, or functions by such a person other than a physician assistant; (Emphasis added.)

43-34-23.

(f) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to limit or repeal any existing authority of a licensed physician to delegate to a qualified person any acts, duties, or functions which are otherwise permitted by law or established by custom.

The following statement by LaSharn Hughes, executive director of the Georgia Composite Medical Board, is noteworthy: “The bill also gives Georgia health care consumers greater voice on the Board, and clarifies longstanding issues regarding the use of medical assistants and sleep techs.”

In addition to safeguarding the medical assistant’s right to practice in Georgia, this legislation provides a positive precedent for other states. Any time the phrase “medical assistant” is incorporated specifically into a state statute or regulation, legal recognition of the profession is enhanced, and the likelihood of specific mention in the laws of other states is increased.

Questions? Contact Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, at dbalasa@aama-ntl.org or 800/228-2262.