With the rise of telemedicine, one the biggest barriers has been our state medical licensing system. Telemedicine is helping break down geographic barriers to care. But telemedicine won’t be able to really extend access until doctors can provide care across state lines. How do we overcome the limitations of our state medical licensing system?
This isn’t to say that our medical credentialing system is not important. It’s crucial that healthcare providers meet a certain set of professional standards and are measured against those. But in many cases, couldn’t those licensing requirements be standardized among states? How do we find a way to make acquiring medical licenses in more than one state more doable?
As telemedicine has grown in popularity, there’s been a push from healthcare providers, patients, legislators, and telemedicine companies to reexamine this issue. A flood of bills in recent years, such as the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2015, The VETS Act, the TELE-MED Act of 2013, all have sought to eliminate the geographic restrictions on telehealth services and make it easier for doctors to provide care to patients all over the U.S.
The most recent exciting response to this issue is the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. The compact would streamline the medical licensing process for providers who want to treat patients in different states. To go into effect, the compact needed 7 states to join. On May 19, 2015, Alabama became the 7th state to join the compact!
Currently, 11 U.S. states have joined the compact (MN, ID, WY, UT, NV, SD, MN, IA, IL, WV, AL) and 9 more (WI, MI, PA, OK, TX, NE, MD, RI) have introduced legislation to join. This is great news for any provider interested in treating patients across state lines.
So how exactly does the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact work?
There’s been a lot of controversy around addressing this licensing issue, and concern that out-of-state providers won’t be held to that state’s medical standards. But the Compact in no way allows for this.
Instead, the Compact would make the application process for out-of-state providers much easier (expedited processing, discounted licensing fee, less paperwork), but it would still require those providers to follow all the state’s rules and standards. In fact, the compact could even help protect patient safety, since disciplinary data would be more accessible among state medical boards!
Right now, the FSMB estimates about 80% of physicians in the U.S. are eligible for expedited licensure, and could become part of the program if their state joined.
Here are some the basic requirements physicians would need to meet:
- Possess a medical license in one of the Compact states
- Have a specialty certification
- Have no discipline on any state medical licenses, and is not under investigation
- Passed the USMLE or CMLEX
- Completed a GME program
If you’re an eligible physician in one of the participating states, you’d simply designate your state of principal licensure (where you live) and select the other member states you’re seeking licensure for on your application. If you’re deemed eligible, you’d receive that state licensure, pay your reduced fee, and then be on your way.
It’s important to note the Compact does not provide one, universal license for all participating states. It just makes it easier and faster to get a medical license in the other included states. Similarly, the Compact doesn’t change any state’s Medical Practice Act. After using the Compact process to receive another state medical license, you would be following the same rules and regulations as if you had applied in the traditional way.
So when is this program getting up-and-running? And how can your state join?
In order to become a compact member, your state legislature has to enact the Compact into state law. Those 9 states mentioned earlier have introduced the bill and are waiting on a decision.
While the Compact now has the needed support to go into effect, the Federation of State Medical Boards is currently putting together an “Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission” to actually make the compact’s goals a reality. The commission recently met in Chicago in late October to work out the licensure process, and is making great strides. Stay tuned at the Compact website.
With any luck, there’ll be another update soon and we’ll be starting 2016 with another forward leap for telemedicine! We'll be following news on the compact closely, so be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive any updates!
Learn more about the Interstate Medical Licensing Compact.