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State Medical Boards Cite Telemedicine as Most Important Regulatory Topic

December 20, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) announced last week that telemedicine is currently the most important medical regulatory topic to state medical boards.

The announcement comes after analyzing results from the Federation’s 2016 State Medical Board Survey, which was completed by 57 of the 70 state medical and osteopathic boards in the U.S., and identified important issue areas and topics impacting the work of boards as they carry out their mission to protect the public.

The survey found that the top five most important medical regulatory topics to state medical boards in 2016 were: 1.) Telemedicine 2.) Resources related to opioid prescribing 3.) The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) 4.) Physician reentry into practice 5.) Medical marijuana. Each of the 57 participating medical boards was asked to choose five of the most important topics from a list of 15, including an “other” option. Indeed, 75 percent of boards chose telemedicine as one of the most important topics to their board, making it the topic impacting the largest number of boards.

A report earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to Congress stated the department’s current telehealth efforts, largely focusing on how delivery system reform initiatives may increase its use. This report noted that federal leaders and healthcare stakeholders have come to several key conclusions regarding telehealth policy: payment reform is critical, especially more comprehensive coverage by Medicare; state licensure barriers continue to temper enthusiasm about telehealth among healthcare providers; and that high-speed broadband connections still do not reach many rural hospitals and clinics, despite significant growth in fiber-optic infrastructure nationally.

In a feature story written last fall for Healthcare Informatics on telemedicine policy, Senior Contributing Editor David Raths noted that a main telemedicine challenge has indeed been licensing providers across state lines. “Clinicians who want to treat patients in another state have had to apply for and pay for licenses in those states, a costly and time-consuming process. Some state boards have sought to prevent or limit the expansion of telehealth, citing patient safety concerns,” Raths wrote.

To try to deal with the license portability issue, the FSMB created the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, an option under which qualified physicians seeking to practice in multiple states would be eligible for expedited licensure in all states participating in the compact.

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