Half of State Medical Boards Perform Poorly When Licensing Out-of-State Doctors

A new research article in the Telemedicine and E-Health Journal shows how difficult state regulatory barriers are making it for doctors to practice effective telemedicine. Telemedicine embraces technologies as diverse as surgeons operating robots remotely, radiologists reading scanned images remotely, or psychiatrists conducting therapy sessions via videoconference.

One barrier to effective adoption of telemedicine is that states license physicians, and those licenses are not portable.

When physicians seek licenses in other states, they face pointless administrative hassles:

54% reported a prolonged application process owing to variable requirements and a deficiency of board office assistance. When respondents were asked about difficulty in dealing with the state medical boards, the reasons listed included the following: failure to respond to e-mails or calls, failure to provide updates on missing content, lack of cooperation, lack of uniform process/consistency, provision of erroneous information, and failure to use the Federation Credentials Verification Service.

For an innovative physician who wants to make best use of technology, this is a pretty bad state of affairs. Unfortunately, because organized medicine has influenced state governments to impose licensure, it is the medical profession itself that is to blame for this state of affairs.

One solution to licensure is certification by private bodies. This already happens in medicine, where national boards certify specialists, and both hospitals and insurers credential physicians for admitting privileges or access to the provider network. Licensure seems to be redundant, and increasingly harmful given the advance of telemedicine.

The end of licensure is one step too far, politically. However, one positive step is the proposed interstate compact, developed by the Federation of State Medical Boards. The compact would dramatically increase the ability of doctors to practice telemedicine across the states which adopt it. This new research shows that it is badly needed.

John R. Graham is a former Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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