Interstate medical licensure would 'herald major reform'

If an interstate compact for physician licensure moves forward, it would herald a major reform in medical licensing, according to Robert Steinbrook, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine.

The draft compact--which has been crafted by officials representing state medical boards around the U.S. and has the backing of the Federation of State Medical Boards--would streamline the requirements for physician licensure across state lines.

Steinbrook, in a viewpoint at the Journal of the American Medical Association, says the compact would create many changes in medical practice. He said it would benefit rural areas that depend on physicians from elsewhere to deliver care, help in the growth of telemedicine, and facilitate special consultations for patients who have rare or complex illnesses.

As of 2012, 78 percent of physicians had one active license, but only 16 percent had licenses in two jurisdictions, and 6 percent had them in three or more jurisdiction, according to Steinbrook.

However, he says, the compact's "actual influences on practice [are] likely to be gradual, and there would be no effects on physicians seeking additional state licenses until multiple states enacted the compact." There are other changes that can be made to medical licensing to improve care, he says, including allowing physicians to practice in other states with their home state license and the creation of standardized state regulations for telemedicine.

But as telemedicine grows, more policies and compacts will continue to come into play--especially to ensure patient safety, such as a policy adopted in April by FSMB that would require medical care delivered electronically to hold to the same standards of care as in-person visits.

To learn more:
- read the viewpoint