While laws vary from state to state as to who in a practice can legally operate a laser or light source or energy-based device, the responsibility often lies with the practice physician, according to Mathew M. Avram, M.D., J.D.
Dr. AvramWhile laws vary from state to state as to who in a practice can legally operate a laser or light source or energy-based device, the responsibility often lies with the practice physician, according to Mathew M. Avram, M.D., J.D. “It is incumbent upon each physician to be aware of the law in their state prior to delegating any laser procedures. Furthermore, it is important to note that the physician is liable for the negligence of a non-physician operator of a device, provided the non-physician operator is working within the scope of employment with the physician employer - whether or not the physician ever saw that patient,” Dr. Avram says.
Dr. Avram was a co-presenter on “Operator laws and regulations in the U.S.” at the April 2017 American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) annual conference. Dr. Avram directs the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center, is associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, and is president of the ASLMS.
A small number of states require physicians only to operate lasers and other devices. Most states allow for delegation. And, on the opposite end, there are states that have no real regulation as to who can operate these devices. So, in these states, non-physician operators can legally use lasers, light sources and other energy-based devices without any supervision, according to Dr. Avram.
“Sometimes, these laws can be quite confusing and convoluted,” he says.
The best way for dermatologists and other physicians to find out more on the topic is to reach out to the appropriate state medical and nursing boards, for state-specific statutes and rules pertaining to laser and intense pulsed light device use. Another resource is the Association American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association (ASDSA).
Dermatologists should also keep in mind that things change. Some states have become more regulated; others, less regulated.