On April 6, 2017, the Federation of State Medical Boards announced that the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) went live in eight of the 18 member states. Physicians in Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming can now apply for licensure in participating states using the compact. The licensure compact allows a streamlined process for qualified physicians to obtain additional medical licensure in Compact states.
The remaining 10 member states are currently resolving an outstanding issue before going live with the Compact. Eight additional states – Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and the District of Columbia have also introduced legislation in support of physician license portability and are expected to join the Compact sometime in 2017.
News of the operationalized compact in the first 8 states comes after the IMLC gained a critical mass of member states in 2015. I applaud FSMB for their dedication in advancing this critical step towards increasing access to quality healthcare.
Telemedicine is a growing industry that provides a space for providers to effectively treat 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 via telemedicine was viable. As telemedicine transforms access to care and providers increasingly seek licensure in multiple states to expand their reach, certain components of current medical licensure requirements have become unnecessarily redundant, time-consuming and restrictive.
The Compact creates a more streamlined licensing process and reduces redundancy when physicians apply for licensure across state-lines. Under the compact, providers will submit a short application, a compact application fee and then pay a licensing fee for each member state the provider wishes to be licensed in. The licensing boards of those member states have agreed to shared standards, information sharing, and a streamlined pathway to licensure. This highly simplified process will help to make it easier for providers to get multiple state licenses, while ensuring that state licensure boards maintain their autonomy and authority. Ultimately, this will help to ease the physician shortage in rural and underserved areas and help to bring care to those who struggled to access it previously.
As an organization that has built telepsychiatry programs in 27 states, our team is intimately aware of the headaches of getting physicians licensed in multiple states in order to provide telehealth care. Prior to the enactment of the Compact, the process for a physician to obtain a license in another state would take several months to a year. Licensure in multiple states was arduous, expensive and often unnecessarily repetitive since each state asked 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.
The Compact joins the ranks of similar professional regulations that facilitate interstate health care like the Nurses Licensure Compact (NLC) that launched in 2000 and advanced practice nurses that are currently formulating a compact.
I commend the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission for taking the time to craft, release and advocate for a smartly designed compact and thank them for actively acknowledging the future of care delivery.
I call on every state to consider the significant possibilities posed by telemedicine the Compact and look forward to more states joining the ranks of those who have passed and gone live with the Compact thus far. The true power of this Compact is large scale collaboration. I encourage constituents in states that have not yet become a member, to contact their state legislator and remind them of the importance of license portability.
Physicians can apply for licensure in one of the eight newly active member states by visiting the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact website.