ATA: Docs practicing telehealth should have interstate priviliges

The American Telemedicine Association is pushing hard to remove state licensure barriers to telehealth practice. The latest: ATA has created a public campaign, FixLicensure.org, to generate public support and lobby Congress, state medical boards and federal regulators.

The campaign is collecting signatures to support a federal "licensure portability" law that would allow physicians to practice via telehealth in any state. Now, physicians must obtain a license in each state in which they physically practice. It's a problem for telehealth, where a physician in Maine may provide care to a patient in Florida, but never actually travel to that state.

The project is yielding a bit of early fruit. Sen. Tom Udall (R-N.M.), has drafted--although not submitted yet--a bill that would give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the power to create national telehealth regulations, according to the blog GlobalMed.com.

Opposition is ginning up, though, too, with the New Mexico Medical Board announcing its opposition recently. The major concern of opponents is how to discipline physicians who practice, via telehealth, outside of their state of residence. The existing system allows state medical boards to investigate and sanction doctors within their borders. Once physicians regularly practice in far-flung states, any issues of malpractice or substandard care could be far harder to prosecute, GlobalMed points out.

Another fly in the ointment: Who gets the license fees associated with a physician's practice, once physicians are providing video visits outside their home state. Right now, it's the state medical board in most states, but that could change if HHS creates a national, centralized regulatory structure.

To learn more:
- read ATA's press release
- check out GlobalMed's commentary
- take a look at ATA's FixLicensure.org website

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