Can Non-Licensed Practitioners Avoid Practice of Medicine Issues?

Can Non-Licensed Practitioners Avoid Practice of Medicine Issues?

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    Right here, on today’s video, we are going to help unlicensed (or non-licensed) practitioners understand how prohibitions against unlicensed practice of medicine might or might not constrain their services or facilitate them.

    Hi, I’m Michael H. Cohen, founding attorney of Cohen Healthcare Law Group and we help healthcare industry clients just like you, navigate the legal terrain for health and wellness services and products, that’s what we do.

    Eva has a PhD in Psychology, but she’s decided not to get her licensed as a clinical psychologist, because she wants to offer somatic therapy, bodywork, with some behavioral health component, and in her eyes not be subject to all the restrictions and risks from a regulatory board.  Is Eva making the right choice, or is she actually increasing her legal and regulatory exposure?

    Like many clients, Eva “heard” it from someone who “heard” it from someone else, whose brother’s cousin’s friend’s sister-in-law consulted a lawyer.  And that lawyer said ….

    We know this rabbit hole, don’t trust it.

    In California, it’s true non-licensed practitioners are on safer legal ground, because of California Business and Professions Code 2053.5, the legal safe harbor for the unlicensed.  The statute says that the non-licensee should disclose to the client in writing that they are not a physician; say that their services are alternative or complementary to those offered by licensed persons; and make a bunch of other disclosures about their training qualifications and methods.

    A key point here is that those services cannot be “unlawful” and cannot constitute the “practice of medicine.”  So, the statute is a bit circular, in that it exempts non-licensees from the prohibition, yet it then goes ahead and references unlicensed practice of medicine.  Caution, discretion, judgment, strategy are advised.

    If Eva is offering psychological counseling, or if what she does could in a way be construed—or even misconstrued—by a Board as unlicensed practice of psychology or behavioral health, then she would be at risk.  A lot depends on exactly what she does, and, on how she describes or markets her healthcare coaching services.

    Some clients are better off working within their license and abiding by the rules of their profession and regulatory board, so that they are not at risk of unlicensed practice, paradoxically enough.  In a State like California, where there is somewhat of a legal umbrella, some clients do better operating under an SB 577, the kind of statute that’s codified that we mentioned earlier.

    Thanks for watching. Please contact us with your questions. We have helped hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of healthcare clients just like you, practitioners to ventures, and everything in-between, and we look forward to working with you on your journey to success!


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