Telemedicine Compact Connects Doctors, Patients in Eight States

Published July 14, 2017

Eight states have implemented expedited licensing procedures for out-of-state doctors who use telemedicine to treat patients in participating states.

Health care providers using telemedicine treat patients remotely, communicating with them electronically.

Doctors based in states participating in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact may apply to their own state’s medical board for a license to treat patients in other member states by telemedicine. Doctors in nonmember states must continue to apply individually to each state for a license before remotely treating patients in those states.

Implementation of the new procedures has started  in eight of the 19 states that have adopted the compact: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Less Than Meets the Eye?

Shirley Svorny, an economics professor at California State University–Northridge, says the compact only appears to expand access to telemedicine.

“The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact does not create portable or interstate licensure or eliminate any barriers to telemedicine,” Svorny said. “Physicians must still obtain a license from every state in which their patients might find themselves needing medical care.”

Only an elite group of doctors gains privileges under the compact, and even they still have to obtain multiple licenses, Svorny says.

“The compact only attempts to expedite the process of applying for multiple, non-portable licenses, and only for medical specialty board-certified physicians with spotless records,” Svorny said.

Predicts Higher Prices

Doctors in nonmember states already have access to streamlined procedures for obtaining multiple licenses, Svorny says.

“States may feel [the compact] is redundant, as there are already private companies that help physicians get licensed in multiple states,” Svorny said. “The cost of administration … will fall on the member states or, if not the states, the physicians they license, in the form of higher fees,” Svorny said.

Federal subsidies to the Federation of State Medical Boards, an administrator of the compact, could make the health care system costlier, Svorny says.

“The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact keeps the duplicative licensing process intact, yet the Federation of State Medical Boards has been granted additional federal funds to implement [it],” Svorny said. “As far as the economic implications, if federal subsidies continue, we may see a new system that is more expensive than the existing system, but with no additional benefits.”

Prefers Simple Reciprocity

Granting licensed physicians reciprocity would be cheaper, easier, and more effective than adopting the compact, Svorny says.

“If state legislators want to give their residents access to specialists and even low-cost day-to-day services, the simple solution is to pass legislation that makes it legal for patients to seek care from physicians licensed in other states via telemedicine,” Svorny said.

Reciprocity laws would expand access, increase competition, and be easier to implement, Svorny says.

“This would create a windfall for patients in terms of access to care, and consumers may also benefit from the resulting increase in competition,” Svorny said. “The physician’s home state board would deal with all complaints, an improvement over the fragmented multistate oversight of telemedicine physicians under the current system.”

Hayley Sledge ([email protected]) writes from Springboro, Ohio.

Internet Info:

Matthew Glans, “Open Telemedicine Across State Lines,” Research & Commentary, The Heartland Institute, January 19, 2017:–commentary-open-telemedicine-across-state-lines

Image via Thinkstock