Missouri is planning to allow medical school graduates who have not completed residency to treat patients in underserved parts of the state. Bills that would allow medical school graduates to provide medical care have passed the General Assembly and are awaiting Governor Jay Nixon’s signature. The newly-minted physicians would receive “assistant physician” licenses and would be able to treat patients in collaboration with a licensed physician – much in the way a physician assistant does. However, the new graduates will be able to call themselves “doctor” while physician assistants will not.
Now the American Academy of Physician Assistants is up in arms because the arrangement would “jeopardize (physician assistant) practice” and because these insufficiently trained Assistant Physicians might be confused with Physician Assistants. The new doctors will have more schooling than the physician assistants, but will only be required to work with a collaborating physician for one month before they can practice alone.
One other important thing to note in the legislation: The collaborating physician maintains full responsibility for all actions of the assistant physician. In other words, if the assistant physician commits malpractice, the supervising physician takes the fall for it.
Creative licensing such as this will be a boon to states since each of these extra providers will have to pay significant licensing fees to the states each year.
When the assistant physicians can’t fill the void in access to care, next up will be medical students who independently treat patients in remote campsites and who receive a “Assistant Physician Aide” designation.
When still more providers are needed, Missouri can then license college students who have completed 12 hours of Basic Life Support and who have any scouting merit badges, calling them “Pre Assistant Physician Aides.”
Anyone should be able to provide medical care. Parents already do it to their children. Just like people who choose to purchase a Kia rather than a Mercedes, people who want to pay five cents for Lucy’s psychiatric treatment versus far more for a formal Dr. Phil evaluation should be allowed to do so.
Two things can’t be overlooked:
- The credentials and training of the person providing the care must be fully disclosed to the recipients of the care
- Those providing the care must be subject to the same regulations, responsibilities and penalties of any other provider performing the same actions. Providers shouldn’t be able to escape liability for negligent actions by blaming someone else or by alleging that they are behaving reasonably given their amount of training. If you want to do brain surgery, you’re held to the standards of a brain surgeon, not a pre assistant physician aide.
We need to carefully consider the evolving paradigm of medical care in this country. The Affordable Care Act ostensibly provided Americans with medical insuance. Now that the bill comes due, how should Americans be receiving care? See tomorrow’s post on my other blog at DrWhitecoat.com for more discussion of this topic.
UPDATE JUNE 25, 2014
Additional article on the topic here