It Is Time To Restructure Health Professions Scope-Of-Practice Regulations To Remove Barriers To Care
Author: Catherine Dower, Jean Moore, Margaret Langelier
Regulation and licensure of health professionals—nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and others—currently falls to the states. State laws and regulations define legal scopes of practice for these practitioners. Concern is growing that this system cannot support workforce innovations needed for an evolving health care system or for successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Existing state-based laws and regulations limit the effective and efficient use of the health workforce by creating mismatches between professional competence and legal scope-of-practice laws and by perpetuating a lack of uniformity in these laws and regulations across states. State laws limit needed overlap in scopes of practice among professions that often share some tasks and responsibilities, and the process for changing the laws is slow and adversarial. We highlight reforms needed to strengthen health professions regulation, including aligning scopes of practice with professional competence for each profession in all states; assuring the regulatory flexibility needed to recognize emerging and overlapping roles for health professionals; increasing the input of consumers; basing decisions on the best available evidence and allowing demonstration programs; and establishing a national clearinghouse for scope-of-practice information.