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Pennsylvania Joins Telehealth-Friendly Licensing Compact for Doctors

18 states now support The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which would help doctors looking to practice telehealth in multiple states. It's set to take effect in 2017.

- Pennsylvania has joined the group of states supporting the telehealth-friendly Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which goes into effect in just over two months.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature last week on legislation unanimously approved by both the state House and Senate makes Pennsylvania the 18th state to sign onto the compact, which establishes a streamlined application process for physicians looking to practice in more than one state.

“In the world of apps and telehealth, the interstate compact allows qualified, licensed physicians to follow this new technology across state lines,” Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, said in a statement issued after Wolf’s signature. “Equally important, as many rural areas of Pennsylvania face physician shortages, is the ability for doctors to move back and forth across state borders.”

Wolf’s signature ends a year-long process by Republican State Rep. Jesse Topper to see his bill become a law.

“It is my hope Act 112 of 2016 will make quality healthcare more accessible and affordable for Pennsylvanians, especially those in underserved areas, and lays the groundwork for more use of telemedicine across state lines,” he said in a release distributed by the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Launched in 2013 by the FSMB a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit comprised of some 70 state medical boards and regulatory agencies, and going into effect on January 1, 2017, the compact creates a “comprehensive process that complements the existing licensing and regulatory authority of state medical boards and provides a streamlined process that allows physicians to become licensed in multiple states, thereby enhancing the portability of a medical license and ensuring the safety of patients.”

Just as important, the document doesn’t intrude on a state’s right to regulate its physicians.

“The compact creates another pathway for licensure and does not otherwise change a state's existing Medical Practice Act,” the FSMB’s suggested wording for state legislation reads. “The compact also adopts the prevailing standard for licensure and affirms that the practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located at the time of the physician-patient encounter, and therefore, requires the physician to be under the jurisdiction of the state medical board where the patient is located. State medical boards that participate in the compact retain the jurisdiction to impose an adverse action against a license to practice medicine in that state issued to a physician through the procedures in the compact.”

Joining Pennsylvania in the compact are Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia and New Hampshire. Michigan is awaiting legislative action on a bill to join the compact.

Not everyone is on board with the compact. The Ohio Medical Board recently scuttled efforts to have that state join the compact, saying it has concerns with “additional bureaucracy and lack of operational clarity.”

In Missouri, meanwhile, a bill passed into law this year contains provisions for licensing compacts for both physical therapists and nurses, but no legislation is on the books for physicians. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCBSN) and the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBT), among other professional groups, are pursuing licensing or privileging compacts similar to the FSMB’s effort.

Dig Deeper:

Telehealth Reimbursement and Its Interstate Licensure Problem

On Telehealth License Portability, Each State Follows its Own Path

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