Senior Counsels T.J. Ferrante and Rachel Goodman were quoted in a JAMA article, “Telehealth Success Spurs a Call for Greater Post-COVID-19 License Portability,” about how the growing use of telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic has precipitated calls for changes in state medical licensing requirements to make it easier for physicians to treat patients across state lines via telemedicine.
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) claims its member state boards have demonstrated extraordinary flexibility by temporarily waiving or modifying medical licensure requirements to meet the needs of the nation. But the modifications also created a confusing patchwork of rules, Goodman said.
“Some states’ waivers are limited to telehealth, others to treating only COVID-related illnesses, and some require in-person care only,” she said. “The waivers also have different ways of sunsetting. Will governors or states take action so that temporary licenses don’t simply turn off one day, but rather have a transition period so continuity of care isn’t interrupted? I don’t think the states have thought this out yet.”
One proposal calls for beefing up the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which created a streamlined process for physicians to get licensed in any of its 31 participating member jurisdictions. But Ferrante, a member of the firm’s Telemedicine & Digital Health Industry Team, said the compact “functions more like a clearinghouse instead of extending true license reciprocity” across states. “The compact doesn’t have a lot of teeth to it,” he said.
And building greater reciprocity into the compact wouldn’t be easy, Ferrante added. “Each state in the compact would have to pass legislation to allow reciprocity to physicians in other compact states,” he said.