A significant barrier to the interstate practice of telehealth is closer to being broken down. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has completed and distributed a draft Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, designed to facilitate physician licensure portability that should enhance the practice of interstate telehealth. Essentially, the compact would create an additional licensing pathway, through which physicians would be able to obtain expedited licensure in participating states. As the FSMB notes in its draft, the compact “complements the existing licensing and regulatory authority of state medical boards, ensures the safety of patients, and provides physicians with enhanced portability of their license to practice medicine outside their state of primary licensure.” This is a potentially significant development because burdensome state licensure requirements have been a major impediment to the interstate practice of telehealth. A physician practicing telehealth is generally required to obtain a medical license in the state where the patient—not the physician—is located. As a consequence, physicians wishing to treat patients in multiple states need to obtain a license in each of those states in order to practice medicine lawfully, a lengthy and expensive process.
While the draft compact shares some of the same features as the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) (launched in 2000 to facilitate nurse mobility and improve access to care), a key difference is in the process for obtaining multistate licensure. Under the draft compact physicians have to submit an application, register, and pay certain fees to obtain licensure in other participating states. Nurses under the NLC, on the other hand, only need to declare that their home state is an NLC state, and the privilege to practice in other NLC states is automatically activated—no separate applications or fees are required. You can read a more comprehensive analysis of the FSMB draft compact here.