With the passage of autonomous practice ability for nurse practitioners in Florida this year, many are wondering how this will affect the healthcare industry in Florida. In a traditional sense, rural and underserved areas should have the opportunity for growth in healthcare providers. The autonomous practice law removes restrictions on certain nurse practitioners, granting them the ability to practice in primary care practice settings without worrying about supervision restrictions. Outside of that, the application of the new law can expand healthcare business offerings and abilities.
In another article, we provided an update to the autonomous practice law for Nurse Practitioners in Florida. For NP’s that qualify, that means they can open a primary care practice without a supervising physician. For most, that means learning about opening and operating a company. Here’s what that entails:
Florida is the latest state to expand the practice of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. In March 2020, autonomous practice was passed and signed into law, with the law going into effect in July. In October, the Board of Nursing promulgated rules and provided the application for NP’s seeking to practice autonomously.
Before qualifying for autonomous practice, however, an NP must meet the following requirements:
In March, the Florida Legislature passed multiple bills that would allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to practice independently of physicians in the delivery of primary care practice. The law, however, went into full effect on July 1. Still, the law did not automatically grant autonomous practice to all nurse practitioners. Rather, an application process is still needed, as well as final regulations governing the new law.
In June, the Florida Board of Nursing voted to move forward with the drafting of rules and the application process to be designated as an independent practice Nurse Practitioner. This process usually takes three months to complete before it is open for practitioners to apply. The Board also voted to define “primary care practice” to include “health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, and diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of healthcare settings.”
Until final rules are decided, a nurse practitioner will at least need to meet the following requirements:
The issue of scope of practice is front and center in Florida right now with the expansion of what nurse practitioners (and nurse midwives) are legally permitted to do. The newly enacted 464.0123 allows for qualified APRNs (there is specific criteria) to practice independent of a supervising physician in the following areas of medicine–primary care, family medicine, general pediatrics, and general internal medicine.
Even more, assuming they meet the membership criteria for admission to a healthcare facility medical staff, they may admit patients, manage patient care, and discharge patients. One of the only preserved connections with a physician established by the law is if the APRN practices at a healthcare facility, a transfer agreement including a physician is required. Additionally, the new law establishes a Council On Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Autonomous Practice, two members of which are appointed by the Board of Medicine and an additional two appointed by the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
After more than a year of debate, edits, tabling and lobbying, the Florida Legislature passed multiple bills that would allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to practice independently of physicians, as well as authorize certain pharmacists to test and treat patients for the flu and strep throat, among other conditions.
Prior to passage of these bills, APRNs were required to have some level of physician supervision in order to practice. While in many cases direct supervision is not required, Florida law required that an APRN enter into a supervisory relationship with a Florida licensed physician. Specifically, the providers must draft written protocols regarding scope of practice, as well as provide certain notices to their governing boards and patients. While the requirements vary based on the type of practice, they aren’t difficult to comply with in most cases. Finding a supervising physician outside of that physician’s primary practice, however, might prove to be more difficult than it seems. The requirements also carry certain mileage restrictions, prohibiting supervision outside mile limits based on the level and type of supervision.
In Florida, a licensed physician can provide supervision of healthcare providers that are not physicians under certain circumstances. Understanding who a physician can cover and under what circumstances can help protect your license and avoid receiving a complaint by the Florida Department of Health.
In every case, when a physician agrees to supervise another provider, Florida law requires certain documentation and notice to be filed.
On May 19, 2018, Delray Beach medical spa owner Jennifer Aspen was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail and charged with practicing medicine without a license. Ms. Aspen is the manager of Mermaid’s Skin & Wellness, a medical spa located in Delray Beach, Florida. The charges against Ms. Aspen stem from the fact that a Delray Beach police officer presented to Mermaid’s Skin & Wellness for a testosterone shot. Ms. Aspen stated to the officer that she would perform the injection. Ms. Aspen is a certified nursing assistant in the State of Florida. Her license is currently listed as “delinquent” on the Department of Health’s website, meaning that (as of today) she failed to renew her license after its May 30, 2018 expiration date. Certified nursing assistants are not generally allowed to administer testosterone in the State of Florida.
One of the legal issues that presents frequently in our office is med spa compliance; who can open and operate a medical spa if it is just a cash business, meaning that it does not submit claims for reimbursement to any government or commercial payor. Misunderstandings run rampant in the medical spa industry and many times patients are administered treatment from persons who are not supposed to be providing it.
In 1986 President Ronald Reagan signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) into law. Since then, the application of the law has been expanded and refined. It was one of the first laws giving the government the authority to dictate certain operations of a hospital. While other laws and regulations such as the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law have become more of a focus for health care providers, EMTALA remains an area of active enforcement. All providers with hospital privileges should therefore be aware of its application.
The policy behind the law is fairly straightforward. Hospitals with emergency departments should not be able to turn away patients needing care because of their inability to pay (no more “wallet biopsies” as part of triage). Likewise, hospitals should not be able to “dump” patients on other facilities for reasons other than for advanced care.
The requirements of the law are also very basic. If a patient comes to an emergency department and requests an examination or treatment for a medical condition, the hospital must provide an appropriate medical screening exam, within its capability, to determine whether or not the patient has an emergency medical condition. The screening provided goes beyond simple triage, and must be performed by a clinical provider such as a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant.
For many years, medical providers and regulators have wrestled with whether Advance Registered Nurse Practitioners (“ARNPs”) and Physician Assistants (“PAs”) should be able to prescribe controlled substances. This past legislative session, several bills were signed into law allowing ARNPs and PAs to prescribe controlled substances subject to several limitations and restrictions. This article will set forth a broad overview of the bills. However, if your practice intends to use ARNPs or PAs to prescribe controlled substances, we strongly recommend that each practitioner is educated about the boundaries set forth in the new law. For instance, there are restrictions on prescribing certain controlled substances in certain circumstances, prescribing controlled substances within a pain management clinic, and prescribing controlled substances for persons under age 18. It is important that all practitioners are properly educated prior to engaging in prescribing or dispensing any controlled substances.
Advance Registered Nurse Practitioners
ARNPs may prescribe or dispense Schedule II, III or IV controlled substances if they have graduated from a program leading to a master’s or doctoral degree in a clinical nursing specialty area with training in specialized skills and have completed 3 hours of continuing education on the safe and effective prescription of controlled substances. ARNPs must limit their prescriptions of Schedule II controlled substances to a 7-day supply. However, this restriction does not apply to psychiatric ARNPs who are prescribing psychiatric medications.
Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.