Frequently Asked Questions – General Office Practices/Protocols

  1. Are physician assistants required to have a chaperone present in the room when examining patients?

    No. California law does not require physician assistant to have a male or female chaperone; however, if having a chaperone or assistant in the exam room makes the patient feel more comfortable and at ease, then the physician assistant should accommodate the patient's request if possible or allow a friend or relative to accompany the patient.

  2. Is a PA covered by malpractice insurance?

    Yes. Generally, the PA works under the insurance policy of the employing physician or health facility. PAs may also carry their own malpractice insurance.

  3. How do I obtain a death certificate to find out the name of the physician who signed the form?

    You may contact the Department of Vital Statistics at (916) 445-1719 to obtain a copy of a death certificate.

  4. Can I file an anonymous complaint on behalf of a family member/friend against a physician assistant if I believe he/she is overprescribing?

    The Board receives and investigates a number of complaints about physician prescribing concerns which are sent by someone other than the patient. These complaints can be difficult to investigate when the patient does not consent to allow the Board to evaluate the care and treatment. It is very helpful in these situations if the Board is provided with as much information as possible about what specific medication is being prescribed and the quantity and frequency. Sometimes this information can be obtained from the pharmacy where the prescriptions are filled. The Board will try to validate the information and in the event that sufficient evidence is available to support a possible violation of the law, an investigational subpoena will be issued for the patient's medical records.

  5. I received a medical evaluation with faulty information which resulted in the cancellation of disability, Workers' Compensation, or other benefits. Can I file a complaint?

    The Board has very limited jurisdiction over independent evaluation reports. The role of the evaluator is to provide an "independent opinion" of the individual's condition after 1) examining the patient and/or 2) reviewing the records of the treatment obtained by the other treating physicians involved in the patient's care. The Board will normally recommend that disability patients pursue an appeal through the disability insurance company.

    Worker's compensation independent (IME) and qualified medical examiner (QME) evaluations are governed by the Medical Unit of the Division of Workers' Compensation. This state agency is responsible for regulating the conduct of IMEs and QMEs in workers' compensation cases, and may be able to advise you on other workers' compensation-related issues. You may contact them at P.O. Box 8888, San Francisco, CA 94128-8888.

  6. Can the Physician Assistant Board help in finding a physician for Medi-Cal, Medicare, a specialist or a IME/QME?

    No, the Board does not provide referrals to physicians. You can contact your local medical association for referrals in various medical specialties or your individual insurance plan or HMO. To locate the medical association/society in your area you can log onto the California Medical Association's website.

  7. Can a physician assistant have a personal relationship with a patient?

    Business and Professions Code section 726 states that sexual abuse, misconduct or relations with a patient are considered unprofessional conduct and grounds for disciplinary action. The Board considers any type of personal relationship between the doctor and the patient to be a very serious breach of public trust and investigates these complaints. Please refer to Questions and Answers about Investigations which provides general information about complaint investigations.

  8. What if a personal relationship developed between the physician assistant and the patient and it was consensual?

    The fact that the personal relationship between the physician assistant and the patient at some point was consensual does not negate the fact that the physician assistant breached professional ethics and boundaries, and possibly broke the law, by initiating a personal relationship with a patient. Filing a complaint with the Board would be strongly encouraged so the issue could be investigated in the event that other complaints with similar allegations had been reported.

  9. My teenage child was seen by the physician assistant and the physician assistant refuses to disclose the reason for the visit. Can I withhold payment of the bill unless the physician assistant answers my questions or provides me with the medical record from the visit?

    No. Children from the age of 12-17 have the authority to "consent" to some types of treatment without the permission of their parent or guardian. The physician assistant is obligated to maintain the doctor/patient confidentiality, particularly when the physician assistant feels that the disclosure of the information will have a negative impact on the relationship with the patient. HIPAA also prevents the disclosure of doctor/patient information to the parent. i.e., treatment related to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

  10. How do I obtain copies of my lab results?

    Health and Safety Code section 123148 requires the health care professional who requested the test be performed to provide a copy of the results to the patient, if requested either orally or in writing. When the patient requests his/her lab results, the health care provider should provide the results to the patient within a "reasonable" time period after the results are received by the provider. Depending on the results of the tests, some physicians may want the patient to schedule an appointment to review and discuss the results and any follow-up testing or treatment that might be required. The test results cannot be released by the lab performing the test and must be released by the provider requesting the test(s).