Physician assistants in Ohio recently welcomed passage of legislation that will greatly improve the way they do their jobs and also improve residents’ access to needed health care.

Senate Bill 110 (SB 110), authored by Senator David Burke (R-OH) and passed into law on July 16, 2015, adds three of the American Academy of Physician Assistant’s recommendations for Six Key Elements of a Modern PA Practice to regulations that govern PAs in Ohio.

“These elements should be in every stage of practice and ensure that PAs across the board can practice to the fullest extent of their education and their experience for efficient and effective patient care,” Josanne K. Pagel, MPAS, PA-C, president elect of the American Academy of Physician Assistants said in an interview with The Clinical Advisor.

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The three key elements from the AAPA that were included in the bill were:

  • Eliminating the requirement that a physician not be more than 60 minutes away from a PA
  • Allowing PA scope to be determined at the practice level
  • Changing the term PA “Certificate of Registration” to “License”

Prior to passing SB 110, Ohio was the last state in the nation that did not use “licensure” as the official regulatory term for the PA profession. Once the law becomes effective, all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have enacted the same Key Element — an unprecedented achievement for the PA profession. In addition to those improvements, SB110 added several other provisions to modernize PA practice in Ohio:

  • Allowing a PA to delegate certain tasks related to implementation of patient care to medical assistants, registered nurses, and others
  • Expanding the number of PAs a physician is allowed to supervise to three
  • Eliminating the certificate to prescribe requirement and the need for medical board approval of supervision agreements
  • Combining the supervision agreement and supervisory plan

Prior to SB110 if a physician wanted to hire a PA in Ohio, they needed to complete a supervisory agreement and apply to a medical board for approval. If the physician worked in a private office, the practice was not considered to be under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Health, and the physician was required to fill out an additional supervisory plan, Pagel explained.

“Moving forward now, this bill combined the two processes so that there really is no difference other than including a little more information on the agreement that the medical board has on file,” she said.

Taken together the changes introduced in SB110 are projected to lead to a higher ratio of PAs to physicians.

“We now have more than 2,400 PA practicing to better meet our patients needs, but we know that with Medicaid reform and expansion we are going to have over 275,000 more patients in Ohio to see,” Pagel said.

The higher PA-to-physician ratio will greatly increase access to healthcare,  particularly in the state’s underserved southern Appalachia region, she added.

“AAPA congratulates OAPA on this win for PAs—and patients—throughout Ohio,” said Jeffrey A. Katz, PA-C, DFAAPA, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) president and chair of the board. “The passage of SB 110 upholds the fact that, when PAs are allowed to practice to the full extent of their education and experience, they can deliver better healthcare and provide more access to their patients, especially those in medically underserved areas.”

Both houses of the general assembly passed SB 110 unanimously. The PA-related provisions were originally introduced as SB 55, but were amended into SB 110. The changes introduced will become effective on Oct. 15, 2015.

Nationwide the demand for PAs and nurse practitioners has rose by more than 300% during the past three years alone, according to national healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins.