The New York Times reported on Sunday June 29th, 2014, that representatives of state medical boards across the country have drafted a law that would make it easier for doctors in one state to treat patients in another state. The law would speed up the licensing process for doctors seeking to practice medicine in multiple states. This change would allow for further use of telemedicine and let doctors see more patients than ever before, which could help with the doctor shortage as more people gain insurance coverage and seek service.
The proposal would increase the ability of doctors to reach people in underserved areas. Additionally, it could allow people with complex or rare medical issues to access experts using telemedicine technologies. For example, experts at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, are able to observe, examine patients, and make treatment recommendations from hundreds of miles away through the links they have established with more than two dozen hospitals and health systems around the country.
The legislation was put together by the Federation of State Medical Boards, which is made up of the agencies that license doctors. The legislation is in the form of an interstate compact, which is essentially a contract among states that then adopt it as part of their own state law. This particular compact would be administered and enforced by an interstate commission. Sixteen senators – ten Republicans and six Democrats – wrote a letter to the state officials endorsing the idea.
Currently, doctors must apply for licenses state by state and this proposed compact would allow doctors who meet certain standards to sidestep that requirement. A doctor licensed in one state could seek an “expedited license” from another state through the commission. A doctor would have to be certified in a medical specialty and have no history of being disciplined, penalized or punished by a court, a medical licensing agency or the Drug Enforcement Administration to be eligible for the expedited license. According to the compact, a doctor who is “under active investigation by a licensing agency or law enforcement authority in any state, federal or foreign jurisdiction” would not be eligible for the expedited license. The compact includes that states would share disciplinary information and if a license is revoked or suspended in a doctor’s home state, then all licenses issued to the doctor in other states participating in the compact could be automatically revoked or suspended, as well.
The proposed compact would maintain the authority of each state to regulate the practice of medicine within its borders. Doctors would have to comply with the laws and rules of each state in which they practice, defined by the compact as “where the patient is located at the time of the physician-patient encounter.”