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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) regarding Scope of Practice Issues in Audiology and the AMA SOP Data Series Document on Audiologists

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) regarding Scope of Practice Issues in Audiology and the AMA SOP Data Series Document on Audiologists

What is “scope of practice”?

The legal definition of the activities that can be performed by a particular health care provider.

Who defines an audiologist’s scope of practice?

Most professional associations delineate the scope of practice for the profession; however, scope of practice is statutorily defined in the form of state “practice acts.”

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have practice acts that regulate the practice of audiology. The scope of practice of a licensed audiologist is statutorily defined in each state’s laws in the form of a “practice act.” State legislatures have the authority to adopt or modify practice acts and therefore can adopt or modify a particular scope of practice of a healthcare profession.

When would an audiologist’s scope of practice change?

Scope of practice changes may occur when education requirements, training, advances in technology and evidence based procedures emerge.

What is the basis for decisions related to scope of practice changes?

State legislators will require that professionals provide supportive evidence when a scope of practice change is pursued. Audiologists would need to establish history of the practice, education and training, supportive evidence, and an appropriate regulatory environment before seeking an expansion to their scope of practice.

Why did they AMA create the Scope of Practice Data Series?

The AMA states they created the SOP Data Series to provide the background information necessary to challenge the state and national advocacy campaigns of limited licensure health care providers who seek unwarranted scope-of-practice expansions that may endanger the health and safety of patients.

What other professions did the AMA target in the Scope of Practice Data Series?

Dentists, naturopaths, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, optometrists, pharmacists, physical therapists, podiatrists and psychologists.

Will direct access expand audiology’s scope of practice?

No, direct access will not expand audiologist’s scope of practice. This legislation would simply allow Medicare beneficiaries the option to see an audiologist without obtaining a referral from a physician. The audiologist would be responsible for determining medical necessity of the diagnostic services provided.

Are other professionals legally able to provide some of the services that audiologists provide?

Yes. It is no longer reasonable to expect each profession will have a unique scope of practice exclusive of all others. Scope of practice decisions made by state legislators are often predicated on whether the proposed change will better protect the public and improve consumers’ access to competent services.

Remember, scope of practice is not about a single activity or service provided but is representative of the unique nature of the entire scope of activities that a specific profession provides.

How should audiologists approach scope of practice changes in their state “practice acts”?

State legislators will require that audiologists demonstrate they have been educated and trained to provide the service and that they can provide the service in a safe and effective manner to consumers. Often changes in educational standards and requirements, advances in technology, advances in evidence based health care techniques, practices, and procedures require that scope of practice changes be considered.