PAs at Walk-In Clinic Supervised by Surgeons

June 1, 2008

We are considering opening a walk-in clinic in our building that would be staffed by an internal medicine physician assistant (PA). The clinic would handle patients with one-time minor issues such as cuts, bites, sore throats, etc. We currently employ six PAs in our surgery practice and realize their capabilities. The plan would be to make it an extension of the current practice, therefore not under a separate tax ID. Are there any legal issues with general surgeons supervising such a practice?

Question: We are considering opening a walk-in clinic in our building that would be staffed by an internal medicine physician assistant (PA). The clinic would handle patients with one-time minor issues such as cuts, bites, sore throats, etc. We currently employ six PAs in our surgery practice and realize their capabilities.

The plan would be to make it an extension of the current practice, therefore not under a separate tax ID. Are there any legal issues with general surgeons supervising such a practice?

Answer: Broadly speaking, physician assistants should act under the supervision and delegated authority of the physician. What’s relevant, then, is whether your surgeons are up for supervising and reviewing the work of PAs dealing with sore throats and the like. They may be well out of the loop on current guidelines for nonsurgical issues, or may not be. You’ll just need to consider this.

Checkout what your state licensing board has to say about PA supervision. You also will want to call your major payers and confirm that they would cover claims submitted from your tax and payer ID for such services in such a setting. This isn’t a legal concern, exactly, but a contractual one and you best make sure you’ll get paid before you proceed.