Scope of practice or truth in advertising issues? The Academy can help

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By Henry W. Lim, MD
Academy president

(The following article first appeared in the September 2017 Dermatology World. Since then, the Academy has launched online resources on scope of practice and truth in advertising, which includes a form that allows members to request help from the Academy.)

As dermatologists, ensuring quality care and patient safety is at the root of every treatment we provide. However, when it comes to quality and safety we are only in control of the treatments that occur within the walls of our own practices. Unfortunately, in many instances non-physicians advertise themselves as skin care doctors or experts. We have all heard the cringe-worthy news reports about patients who have suffered irreversible consequences from a botched treatment provided by a non-physician. Our patients deserve better.

  Scope of practice map
The Academy has a wealth of resources on scope of practice and truth in advertising.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) has a firm position on truth in advertising and we are aggressively fighting for the implementation of direct and concise regulations and enforcement against fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading advertising. We are also pushing for regulations that require transparency and disclosure of a provider’s degree, field of study, board certification, and state licensure. We are not alone in this fight. The AADA has worked with the American Medical Association (AMA) and other specialty societies to push for legislation that requires health care practitioners to identify the license under which they practice — and this legislation has been enacted in 20 states.

Additionally, the AADA along with the AMA, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association, and other medical specialties are advocating for legislation that restricts the inappropriate use of “board certification” in advertisements, and only allows physicians to use the term if their certifying board meets certain requirements. This legislation has been introduced in 12 states. The AADA also introduced a resolution in the AMA House of Delegates that supports transparency of health care provider profiles in commercial and federal physician comparison databases — the resolution was adopted in 2015. While this issue is generally addressed at the state level, the AADA’s federal legislative team has also pressed for action on truth in advertising with the U.S. Congress. The Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act (H.R. 3928), recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, would help ensure patients have reliable information regarding the delivery of their medical care, empowering them to make medical decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

Scope of practice

Truth in advertising goes hand-in-hand with scope of practice regulations, and the Academy has not let up on that issue either. The AADA’s position firmly states that non-physician clinicians are to be supervised by a dermatologist in the practice. Non-physician clinicians should not provide dermatology care without supervision by a dermatologist; we are doggedly fighting non-physician efforts to expand their scope of practice.

Need help?

Do you have scope of practice or truth-in-advertising concerns that you would like the Academy to help address? If so, complete the AADA's brief form.


In the last three years alone, the Academy positively influenced scope of practice legislation in more than 20 states. To name a few, we have blocked nurse practitioner scope-of-practice expansion bills in Indiana and Pennsylvania, and defeated optometry scope expansion efforts in Maryland, North Carolina, Connecticut, and California. Again, we are not alone on this issue. The Academy is an active member in the AMA Scope of Practice Partnership coalition, and we are teaming up with other physician groups to fight these inappropriate efforts to expand non-physicians’ scope of practice.

This is simply a snapshot of the work that your Academy has done over the last few years on truth in advertising and scope of practice. Because scope of practice and most truth in advertising laws are governed by state regulatory bodies, partnership with state medical and dermatological societies is a must. While we have made significant gains on this issue, there is still a long road to travel. Together with state societies, I can assure you that we will continue to monitor and fight legislation that puts patient safety and quality care at risk.

What are the scope laws for nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) in your state? Find out now.

I call on all of my colleagues to join the Academy in its efforts to promote truth in advertising and fight scope of practice expansions. Fortunately, the AADA has made it easy for you to get involved. We have developed resources for members that include model legislation, talking points, as well as template media tools that you can personalize and use in your local communities. We are also expanding on these resources by providing state-specific information on how to report potential violations, and additional tools on how to get involved at the grassroots level.

Together, we need to intensify our efforts to strengthen scope of practice regulations and fight for truth in advertising. We are not simply taking these steps to defend our specialty. We are taking a stand for our patients because when it comes to patient care, quality and safety are non-negotiable.