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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Proposed compact could help more doctors receive a license

NEC Corporation of America
A doctor consults with a patient using telemedicine. The expanding use of telemedicine has caused more doctors to apply for medical licenses in multiple states.

There is a long list of to-do’s when applying for a medical license in Missouri. Applicants have to provide detailed verification of their degrees, residency and previous work experience. Tack on several months for the state medical board to review all these items, and the whole process can take a lot of time.

Most physicians go through this process when they are first applying for a medical license. But the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) found that many doctors don’t stop at one license.

“About 15 percent of physicians in this country have two licenses," said Lisa Robin, FSMB's Chief Advocacy Officer. "About six percent have more than two; some up to 20 (licenses) depending on what specialty they are in and if they are a telemedicine provider.”

Telemedicine providers often use video calling or other technology to treat patients across state lines. To do so, they have to have a license in the state where their patient resides. While there is a slightly expedited process for established physicians, for the most part doctors have to go through the same verification process in every state.

That means more paperwork and more waiting.

But the FSMB has proposed a new way to license physicians that would speed up this process.

“If the state chooses to participate, it would create this compact whereby eligible physicians could very easily apply to practice in multiple states,” Robin said.

Under the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact a doctor in Missouri who wanted a license in Kansas, for example, would contact the Missouri medical board, which would review the doctor’s information and then make a recommendation to the Kansas medical board for the doctor to receive a license.

However, Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said the compact would unnecessarily "supplant a state’s usual process for granting licenses."

“They would like you to think it's a higher standard, but really it's under the control of the Federation of State Medical Boards which is really a private organization that really credentials itself as being above other people," Orient said.

But Dr. Karen Edison, Director of the University of Missouri’s Center for Health Policy, says the proposed standard is not unrealistic. She said the compact could help in states like Missouri that have a shortage of medical providers.

“We do need more physicians in Missouri," Edison said. "We need more of every kind of healthcare provider and so we can use telemedicine to support them.”

Regardless, Missouri can’t participate in the compact until the General Assembly considers the issue and so far Missouri legislators haven’t mentioned the resolution as they begin this year’s legislative session.

Hope Kirwan left KBIA in September 2015.
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