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Senators applaud medical boards for advancing telehealth

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) are among a bipartisan group of 14 lawmakers who have signed a letter praising the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) for their efforts to break down silos that prevent the widespread licensing and use of telehealth.  FSMB has been working on an expedited licensing process for physicians who wish to practice remote medicine across state lines, a key barrier to cost-saving and patient-pleasing telemedicine.

“In South Dakota, telehealth makes it easier for physicians to see patients that may not be able to easily or frequently travel to where the physician practices,” said Senator Thune in a statement. “However, without a way to more efficiently license physicians across state lines, telehealth advancement is hindered. The development of this drafting committee and the progress they have already made is an important first step.”

A patchwork of insurance regulations and contentions between local medical boards over qualifications have prevented physicians from consulting with patients across borders, even though such consults have been proven to reduce medical errors in rural facilities, speed stroke care, and reduce the length of costly hospital stays.  The TELE-MED Act of 2013 was introduced in the House late last year with the intention of trying to solve these problems for Medicare practitioners.

“Currently, the benefits of telemedicine are limited by an antiquated system of licensure laws that hinders the practice of medicine across state lines,” Health IT Now Coalition Executive Director Joel White said in a public statement. “That means that qualified and credentialed physicians must jump through hoops and hurdles before they can treat patients remotely.”

“Folks in my home state of Wyoming often have to travel long distances to see a doctor, but telemedicine can bring the care they need right to their homes,” added Senator Enzi. “Telemedicine has the ability to help expand access to care for rural states and communities and I applaud the progress being made to ensure that this is a viable and safe option for families and physicians alike.”

FSMB has been working with the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Taskforce to resolve these critical issues.  “FSMB’s appointment of a drafting team to use eight key consensus principles to shape a voluntary licensure compact is welcome progress to ensure timely decisions,” the Senators’ letter says. “As you continue this development process, we would like to express our support for an interstate compact to provide a solution to expedite the process whereby physicians can be licensed in multiple states and practice telemedicine in a safe and accountable manner.”