Interstate medical licensure compact will save physicians time, effort

The interstate medical licensure compact is getting closer to being formally effective--with many in healthcare touting it as a way to advance care across state lines, especially through telemedicine services.

The compact, created by the Federation of State Medical Boards, would allow physicians applying for a state medical license to put down where else they want to practice, and participating states would issue licenses expeditiously if eligibility criteria were met, according to a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine by members of FSMB.

Currently, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, and West Virginia have adopted the compact, according to the paper, and it is pending in 11 other states. Seven states need to adopt the compact for it to become formally effective.

With the expansion of broadband services and technological innovations, more physicians are practicing across state lines through telemedicine. That makes the compact more important than ever before, the authors write. Telemedicine even sees support on Capitol Hill, with about 12 lawmakers supporting expanded use of the tool during a recent Senate subcommittee hearing. 

However, when the FSMB finalized the compact in September, some in the industry spoke against it, saying it doesn't do enough to boost telemedicine in a meaningful way. James Turner, senior policy counsel for the Health IT Now Coalition, said that the document needed improvement.

"The FSMB recommendation … is essentially an expedited licensure process based on the current state-based model," Turner said at the time. "A provider licensed to practice in the state where the patient resides should have the same opportunity to treat that patient anywhere in the United States."

But industry professionals also realize the barriers caused by the current process to obtain state medical licenses. In a survey at Telemedicine and e-Health, published in February, providers said time spent from start to approval for a state medical license could be more than 12 hours.

The authors of the NEJM perspective write that the compact will help physicians and patients.

"Through economies of scale and reduction of redundancies in the licensure application process, the compact will probably save physicians time and effort, enabling both physicians and the health systems that increasingly employ them to respond more quickly to regional and national health care demands," they write.

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