What Medical Assistants Are NOT Allowed to Do
Highly technical and invasive medical procedures carried out by non-qualified health care workers seriously
injure thousands of Americans every year. Many discussions continue to revolve around medical assistant
duties and what they can and cannot legally do. Among these hotly debated issues is whether they are allowed
to start and disconnect IV lines, take radiological images, insert urinary catheters, administer Botox® injections,
or conduct phototherapy in an UV booth, or triage. In general medical assistants cannot do the following tasks:
Medical Assistants Who Give Injections
Medical assistants are often asked to administer injections, e.g. vaccines, medications, hormones, B12, and
intradermal injections like TB skin and allergy scratch testing. In order to do this they must be fully trained,
competent, directly supervised and it must be permitted by state law. Medical assistants can give any of these
injections only if the doctor is present. He/she doesn't have to literally be standing over the medical assistant
observing the procedure, but must have a.) given the order, b.) verified the dose, and c.) be present and
reachable at the spur of a moment. Any medical assistant who administers injections without a doctor's orders,
or a doctor present, even if it is to an already established patient who had the same injection many times
before, is in violation of the law. Also, there has been a lot of controversy around medical assistants giving
Medical Assistants Who Relay Diagnostic Results
When it comes to medical assistants giving out medical screening, lab, or x-ray results to patients over the
phone, that is permissible. Medical assistants are allowed to read results verbatim to the patient from the
medical chart without making any health or medical assessments, or giving medical advice, even if the patient
asks-but only after the supervising physician has seen, acknowledged and signed them off to the medical
assistant and must ONLY repeat what the record states, or specific instructions that were added by the
physician. Be SURE you are speaking to the right person. HIPAA laws are very precise and unless there is a
consent form on file any information, including lab results, are confidential and privileged information. Do NOT
leave such information with anyone but the person you want to reach.
After the test results have been transmitted directly to the patient over the phone and the patient has specific
questions about the values then the medical assistant must refer them back to the doctor for interpretation and
further clarification. Once the results were read, the medical assistant annotates the lab slip with the date, who
he/she spoke to and any other brief notes, initials it, files it back into the patient's chart and brings the chart
back to the doctor if there were any further questions. A short annotation is enough: "05/15/2011; results read
to PT over phone, referred to doctor Such-And-Such for further interpretation; YOUR INITIALS, CCMA."
If you was instructed to call a patient but you only get an answering machine, do NOT leave a recorded
message with the results. Instead, just leave a brief message to call the doctor's office back and annotate the
records with: "05/15/2011, left message (abbreviated LM) to call us back; YOUR INITIALS, CCMA." It is good
practice to also mail a copy of the lab results, special instructions, diet plans and any other supporting literature
to the patient.
Triage is different from a predetermined screening process. Medical assistants are typically the first person a
patient sees or speaks to when they call. A well trained medical assistant is able to listen well and
communicate assertively, this in itself is not triage-neither is repeating approved information and directions as
long as the medical assistant is not making independent professional judgments or clinical assessment.
The latter is where medical assistants can get in big trouble. They can only repeat doctor approved information.