Scope of Practice for Health Professions
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Scope of practice is a legal term that refers to the specific services that a health care professional is authorized to provide. Scope of practice is regulated at the state level as part of the licensure process. The Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, describes the intent of scope of practice laws as ensuring health care quality by identifying minimum standards of expertise. The same report identifies some potentially negative impacts of scope of practice acts, including limitations that may be placed on telemedicine services, services provided by nonphysician providers, and in the use of multidisciplinary teams to provide care. Limited scope of practice laws may result in a shortage of advanced practitioners. On the other hand, expanding scope of practice laws can help decrease workforce shortages as mid-level practitioners take over some of the duties of professionals like physicians or dentists, allowing them time to complete more complicated procedures. The Affordable Care Act has increased pressure for states to change their scope of practice laws given an anticipated surge in demand for health care services. At an organizational level, health care employers can use their workforce more efficiently by allowing them to practice within the full extent of their scope of practice.
Page last updated October 17, 2012