The top 5 regulatory issues for state medical boards

A stethoscope on a computer keyboard
Opioid prescribing tops the list of state medical boards' regulatory issues. (Getty/anyaberkut)

Opioid prescribing and telemedicine are the two top regulatory issues cited by state medical boards, according to a new survey.

RELATED: Investigation finds more than 1,000 doctors disciplined for risky opioid prescribing

The nonprofit Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents all of the medical boards in the U.S., conducted its annual member survey (PDF), asking members to choose five of the most important topics from a list of 16, including an “other” option.

“Our member boards play a central role in providing guidance to policymakers and healthcare professionals on how to navigate some of our nation’s most pressing medical issues,” Humayun J. Chaudhry, D.O., the group’s president and CEO, said.

“Anticipating these trends will help the FSMB provide boards with resources they need to address these challenges and continue their mission.”

Here are the top five issues state medical board members identified, along with the percent of respondents who chose them:

1. Resources related to opioid prescribing (74%)

Doctors' prescribing of opioids has come under increased scrutiny as overprescribing has been blamed for playing a role in the country’s opioid epidemic. An investigation found that more than 1,000 doctors have been disciplined by state medical boards since 2016 for risky prescribing of opioids and many of those doctors are still seeing patients.

2. Telemedicine regulations (74%)

A recent study found that more than half of providers plan to expand their telehealth offerings. And it’s not just large hospitals and health systems. Increasingly, standalone primary care providers and specialists are finding value in seeing patients remotely—both to keep revenues that might otherwise go to outside telemedicine providers and as a cost-effective way to attract patients from a wider region.

3. Physician stress and burnout (44%)

It’s a problem that isn’t going away. Research shows that burnout has led 1 in 5 doctors to plan to reduce their clinical hours. And roughly 1 in 50 doctors plan to leave medicine altogether within the next two years.

4. Medical marijuana (42%)

As more states consider legalizing medical marijuana, it’s not been without stumbling blocks for doctors and clinics. Many doctors find themselves unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana or answer patients’ questions.

5. Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (38%)

For many physicians who want to practice medicine in multiple states, the IMLC offers a streamlined process for medical licensure. Last spring, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission officially began accepting applications from qualified doctors who want to obtain multiple licenses from participating states.