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Telehealth-Friendly Licensing Compacts Gain Momentum for Docs, Nurses

17 states have joined the compact for physicians, while 8 states have joined a similar effort for nurses. Both would ease the licensing process for multi-state telehealth programs.

- Five more states have signed up to ease the licensing process for doctors wanting to practice telemedicine across state lines. And an effort to make the process easier for nurses is gaining momentum as well.

Colorado became the 17th state to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, with Gov. John Hickenlooper signing the legislation on June 8. The compact, overseen by the Federation of State Medical Boards, offers an expedited licensing process for physicians interested in practicing in multiple states, while keeping intact each state’s medical board standards.

“It is encouraging to see Colorado join the compact, along with a growing number of states, as this will improve and increase healthcare access in the Rocky Mountain region and beyond, while still ensuring that we protect patient safety and quality,” Joan Bothner, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Children’s Hospital Colorado, said in a press release.

Colorado is the fifth state in the to join the compact since the beginning of May, joining Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Arizona. The compact, which became official in May 2015, also includes West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.

Another nine states – Alaska, Washington, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maryland and Rhode Island – have introduced legislation to join the compact.

In all, 31 state and osteopathic boards support the compact, as well as the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

A similar effort for nurses – the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing – currently has eight members: Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyoming and Arizona. New Hampshire and Missouri have passed the legislation and are awaiting a governor's signature, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Illinois have legislation pending.

The enhanced NLC, which is an updated version of the current NLC, allows for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs) to have one multistate license, with the ability to practice in both their home state and other NLC states.

Oklahoma became the most recent state to join the compact on May 11.

"This legislation is a giant step forward for Oklahoma's healthcare system,” State Rep. Pat Ownbey said during the signing ceremony. “The new law will allow nurses practicing in and out of our state the flexibility in moving to where the greatest health needs exist while keeping patient safety intact.”

The enhanced NLC will become official once 26 states have signed on to the compact or by Dec. 31, 2018, whichever comes first. Some 25 states approved the original NLC. 

Dig Deeper:

Nurses’ Group Lobbies for Telemedicine Licensure

Cross-State Licensing Compact Gains Momentum

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