Who Can I Delegate Services to?
Delegating services to unlicensed individuals within a practice can be a very gray area and is often misunderstood by health professionals nationwide. The requirements set by the state where you practice determine who is allowed to provide services under the direction of the licensed DC. There are also circumstances that dictate what can and cannot be delegated, such as individual provider agreements. Usually, your state law is the final authority for decisions about delegation, but you should be aware that provider contracts can be more stringent than a state rule. For example, in some states, it is acceptable for Chiropractic Assistants to help supervise exercises in the rehab area but your contract with XYZ Insurance may indicate that if Therapeutic Exercises are to be considered medically necessary, they must be provided and supervised by the DC. It’s imperative that you not only check with your State Board regarding supervision but that you review all third-party agreements to clarify those rules.
Here is an example of what was decided in an Illinois case:
|In 2011, the Illinois legislature added Section 54.2 to the Medical Practice Act regarding physician delegation of authority to licensed and unlicensed personnel in the office. In response to questions submitted by a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois medical director, the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) Medical Board counsel recently issued information about the Department’s interpretation of the law: The applicable part of the law states: “(a) [Physicians may delegate] patient care tasks or duties by a physician, to a licensed practical nurse, a registered professional nurse, or other licensed person practicing within the scope of his or her individual licensing Act…No physician may delegate any patient care task or duty that is statutorily or by rule mandated to be performed by a physician. (b) In an office or practice setting and within a physician-patient relationship, a physician may delegate patient care tasks or duties to an unlicensed person who possesses appropriate training and experience provided a health care professional, who is practicing within the scope of such licensed professional’s individual licensing Act, is on site to assist….”[Emphasis added].
This law addresses delegation of duties to licensed persons in paragraph (a) above, as well as to unlicensed persons in paragraph (b).
Based on the language of subsection (a) cited above, the IDFPR has stated the following regarding delegation to a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) in the office:
Where the LMT is held out to the public as an LMT (i.e., by name badge, office promotional and advertising materials, website, signage, business cards, and the like), the physician may delegate tasks to the LMT that are within the LMT’s scope of practice. These tasks could include myofascial release, trigger point therapy, or therapeutic massage. In this situation, the delegated tasks must be limited to those within the scope of the LMT’s license.
Based on the language of subsection (b), however, the IDFPR has stated that a physician may delegate “patient care tasks or duties” to an unlicensed person who is appropriately qualified, provided a licensed health care professional (such as the physician) is on site to assist. This type of delegation could include a broader range of tasks than those that may be delegated to a licensed person if the other requirements of the law are met. If the employee is not licensed, there is no qualification in subsection (b) limiting the range of delegated tasks to a particular license scope, other than the scope of the delegating physician.
This language may leave some chiropractic physicians with an ironic result: they may be more limited in the tasks they may delegate to an identified LMT employee than to an unlicensed (albeit qualified) assistant. To address this issue in instances where an LMT is employed, the IDFPR has said that the D.C. may delegate patient care tasks and duties to persons holding a massage therapy license as if they were unlicensed, including tasks beyond the scope of the LMT license, if the LMTs are not in any way held out to the public as being LMTs. In this situation, the LMT would be acting in the capacity of an unlicensed, qualified assistant and would not have to limit his or her tasks and duties to the scope of the LMT license. For example, in addition to massage, you may wish to delegate ultrasound therapy to your LMT employee, a procedure not considered in the scope of LMT practice. You may do so only if he or she is not in any way represented as an LMT, including by verbal communication with the patient, wearing a badge indicating LMT status, or advertised as an LMT on any of the practice’s promotional materials, including its website.
Therefore, the IDFPR’s interpretation means if you employ LMTs in your office, it is important that you consider what tasks you need them to perform. If they are limited to activities that are within the scope of an LMT, you may promote them as such, and they may use their LMT designation on their name badges. However, if you need your LMT to be able to perform duties that go beyond the scope of the LMT license, you may still be able to delegate those duties IF you remove all advertising and indicators of the LMT status, and represent them as if they are unlicensed assistants.
As clarified in Illinois, there could be very specific rules that apply to ancillary personnel providing services to patients. Don’t assume that you know the rules—not those of your state or those of the carriers you are billing on behalf of your patients. If you delegate to ancillary personnel, be sure you know the parameters; write policy for your compliance program about how to abide within those parameters. Only then can you feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you are working within the rules.