Modernizing Scope-of-Practice Regulations — Time to Prioritize Patients


Bianca K. Frogner, Erin P. Fraher, Joanne Spetz, Patricia Pittman, Jean Moore, Angela J. Beck, David Armstrong, and Peter I. Buerhaus

February 13, 2020

Ongoing payment reforms are pressing health systems to reorganize delivery of care to achieve greater value, improve access, integrate patient care among settings, advance population health, and address social determinants of health. Many organizations are experimenting with new ways of unleashing their workforce’s potential by using telehealth and various forms of digital technology and developing team- and community-based delivery models. Such approaches require reconfiguring of provider roles, but states and health care organizations often place restrictions on health professionals’ scope of practice that limit their flexibility. These restrictions are inefficient, increase costs, and reduce access to care. As leaders of public and private research centers who interact with and study the U.S. health workforce, we believe it’s time to revise the country’s antiquated patchwork of laws that restrict the health system’s ability to innovate. We should improve our approach to regulating health professionals’ scope of practice so that regulations better serve the needs of patients, rather than protect turf in the battles among health professions.