On May 19, 2015 the Federal State Medical Board’s Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission was enacted, after Alabama became the seventh state to officially adopt it. The licensure compact will allow a streamlined process for qualified physicians to obtain additional medical licensure in participating Compact states.
With Alabama’s participation, the compact has reached the required number of states for it to go into effect. Alabama joined Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming as states that officially enacted the compact. Nearly 20 states have introduced the compact to their state legislature.
I applaud these states for their participation in this important step towards the future of healthcare.
Telemedicine is a growing industry that provides a space for providers to effectively treat health care consumers in any location. However, the idea of “healthcare anywhere” is significantly challenged by physician licensure requirements that were often established before the idea of practicing across state lines was viable. As telemedicine transforms access to care and providers increasingly seek licensure in multiple states, certain components of current medical licensure requirements have become unnecessarily redundant, time-consuming, and restrictive.
The Compact creates a more streamlined licensing process and increases licensure portability across state-lines for physicians. It will ease the physician shortage in rural and underserved areas and help to bring care to those who struggled to access it previously.
As a company that has built telepsychiatry programs in 24 states, our team is intimately aware of the headaches of getting physicians licensed in multiple states in order to provide telehealth care. The existing process for a physician to obtain a license in another state can take several months to a year. Licensure in multiple states is arduous, expensive and often unnecessarily repetitive since each state asks for nearly the same information.
The Interstate Licensure Compact system opens up new possibilities for state licensing boards to share information and collaborate with one another to reduce redundancy and streamline complicated processes around uniform standards. Ultimately, the licensure process is expected to be quicker and easier.
The Compact will join the ranks of similar professional regulations that facilitate interstate health care like the Nurses Licensure Compact (NLC) which launched in 2000. Other healthcare professions are also following suit and exploring their own licensure compact structures.
As with any new system, there are questions about how the Compact might affect standards for quality care, existing laws and budgets. An Interstate Compact Commission will meet later this year to discuss the specifics of management and administration of the newly enacted Compact, but many important points have already been established.
First, since telemedicine must always be practiced appropriately and within the standards of licensing boards, the Compact maintains the existing authority of all participating state’s licensing boards. Additionally, the Medical Practice Act, which outlines the laws and regulations governing the practice of medicine within state boundaries, is maintained under the new Compact. Lastly, in regards to funding questions, states will still receive the licensing fees associated with physicians applying for and maintaining licensure. There will be no increase in state spending with the Compact.
I praise the FSMB for taking the time to craft, release and advocate for a well-thought out compact and thank them for actively acknowledging the direction that medicine is going.
I call on every state to consider the significant possibilities posed by telemedicine and FSMB’s Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and look forward to more states joining the ranks of those who have enacted or proposed the Compact thus far. The true power of this Compact is large scale collaboration.