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Oklahoma lawmakers ease practice requirements for physician assistants

published in McAfee & Taft Healthcare Update | June 11, 2015

By Terra Lord Parten

Several amendments to Oklahoma’s physician assistant laws were passed during this spring’s legislative session. Generally, these amendments ease practice requirements for physician assistants by eliminating the requirement that a supervising physician be on-site at least one day per week, so long as the supervising physician is available by telecommunication, and by removing the requirement that a physician assistant receive approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision (OSBMLS) and have practiced for more than one year prior to practicing in a remote care setting.

Additionally, the amendments afford greater flexibility to the supervising physician to establish the appropriate scope of practice and level of supervision needed. For example, the amendments eliminate the list of specific services that can be provided by physician assistants, stating instead that physician assistants may provide services so long as the services are within their skill level and scope of practice and under appropriate physician supervision. The amendments also clarify that the definition of “newly diagnosed complex illness,” for purposes of the requirement to contact the supervising physician within 48 hours of such diagnosis, is determined by the supervising physician based on the clinical setting and the skill and experience of the physician assistant.

The Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants (OAPA) refers to the amendments as the “Oklahoma PA Practice Act Modernization Bill” and believes that the amendments are the result of dramatic changes in modern utilization of physician assistants and the federal approach to physician assistant regulation in rural medicine. The OAPA also believes that the amendments are designed to resolve frequent questions to the OSBMLS that arise from the ambiguous language in the current laws.

Despite these changes, the general requirement that a physician assistant be supervised by a physician remains fully in tact. Under Oklahoma law, a physician assistant may not provide health care services unless he or she has an application on file with the OSBMLS that is signed by a supervising physician and that outlines the nature of the supervising physician’s practice, the methods of supervising and utilizing the physician assistant, and names of alternative physicians who will supervise in the physician’s absence. While the amendments clarify that the supervising physician need not be present to supervise the physician assistant, he or she must still be available by telecommunication and utilize other methods of supervision, which may include approval of orders and protocols and periodic chart review of patients seen by the physician assistant.

This update has been provided for clients and friends of McAfee & Taft A Professional Corporation. It does not provide legal advice, and is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon information in this update without seeking professional counsel.

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