Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Rules That AAs Cannot Perform Clinical Lab Tests in Hospitals
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) – the state agency that licenses and regulates hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, recently denied a petition for a declaratory statement filed by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital seeking approval for anesthesiologist assistants to perform STAT laboratory tests on patients under anesthesia. FANA opposed the petition.
What is a declaratory statement? A declaratory statement is a formal statement issued by a regulatory agency concerning the applicability of statutory provisions, rules, or orders over which the agency has authority. Declaratory statements only apply to the specific party and question before the regulatory agency.
- Whether anesthesiologist assistants may perform immediate or “STAT” laboratory testing on surgical patients under anesthesia.
- TMH argued the condition of a patient under anesthesia can become critical in a matter of minutes, and the anesthesiologist needs immediate access to “STAT” laboratory results to manage various clinical conditions. In many cases, the anesthesiologist cannot perform “STAT” laboratory testing because he or she is providing anesthesia care to the patient or another patient at the same facility. These duties requires other personnel assisting the anesthesiologist to perform the testing.
- Tallahassee Memorial Hospital maintained that because anesthesiologist assistants must work under the direct supervision of anesthesiologists who are liable for their performance, AAs should be permitted to perform lab tests. TMH also argued that anesthesiologist assistants are essentially extensions of anesthesiologists therefore should be able to perform “STAT” testing.
The Agency for Health Care Administration agreed with FANA and declared that under current law, anesthesiologist assistants are not permitted to perform clinical laboratory testing of moderate complexity at alternate sites within a hospital unless they are licensed as clinical laboratory personnel under Chapter 483 Part III, Florida Statutes.
AHCA found that TMH’s arguments were not supported by a plain reading of the statutes and rule, and anesthesiologist assistants do not fall under the definition of “licensed practitioner of the health arts” and are not otherwise identified in Section 483.813, Florida Statutes, or Rule 59A-7.034(7) as personnel who may perform alternate-site clinical laboratory testing. Accordingly, anesthesiologist assistants are not legally qualified to perform such testing under current law.
The ACHA petition states “The Agency declines to opine on the permissible scope of services and the differing roles between anesthesiologists and anesthesiologist assistants since that determination lies within the province of the Legislature and the Florida Department of Health.”