In 2012, the Legislature passed legislation to regulate medical assistants at both the certification and registration levels. (The medical assistant legislation does not go into effect until July 1, 2013.) Medical assistants will replace the current “health care assistant” profession. The main advocate for the legislation was the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA). For a variety of reasons, WSMA found the existing health care assistant statutes and rules lacking in clarity and breadth.
Under the new law, there are 2 main types of medical assistants: 1) medical assistants-certified (those who have completed an approved training program and passed an approved test), and 2) medical assistants-registered (those with varied training who have been endorsed by the practice for which they work to be competent to perform certain functions.) Currently credentialed health care assistants in categories C, D, E, and F will be grandfathered in as medical assistants-certified. The scope of practice for medical assistants-registered is narrower than for medical assistants-certified. Currently credentialed health care assistants in categories A and B will be grandfathered as medical assistant-phlebotomists. Currently credentialed health care assistants in category G will be grandfathered as medical assistant-hemodialysis technicians.
The new law also recognizes that there are other assistive personnel, who often work for specialists, who have extensive on-the-job training and may not qualify for the medical assistant-certified category. In addition, the medical assistant-certified and registered categories do not allow the performance of some tasks currently performed by specialty personnel. Currently, the various Department of Health (DOH) boards and commissions are submitting information explaining those tasks that specialty assistants perform that are not covered by the medical assistant-certified scope of practice.
Provider groups are working with each other and representatives from the Legislature to find a legislative solution for specialty assistive personnel.
There are many questions surrounding the implementation of the medical assistant legislation, including whether it will affect front-office clerical staff. The Department of Health is in the process of writing rules on the medical assistant legislation. You can request to be added to the rules review list here.