Interstate Medical Licensure Compact: Will Georgia physicians soon be able to share their expertise with more patients?

861958_hidoc-on-whiteGeorgia physicians seeking licensure in other states hope to benefit soon from a more streamlined process.  In fact, a bill was recently introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives to allow Georgia to join the growing number of states participating in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.  (House Bill 637). Such a bill, if passed by both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, would greatly simplify the process for Georgia physicians to obtain licenses in other member states, allowing a wider population of patients access to their services and expertise.  This type of bill would not change the existing methods of obtaining a license in Georgia but would provide an additional route.  Although the bill was not voted on, the effort indicates this type of change may be on the horizon.

The issue is important for many physicians.  State law requires medical personnel to be licensed in the state in which they provide medical care.  Medical care is “provided” in the state in which the patient is located at the time.  Each state has its own procedures that must be complied with to obtain a license, a process that can be time consuming, complicated and repetitive.  The need to be licensed in more than one state is growing for many doctors.  The American population in general is becoming more and more mobile with individuals often living in several states during their working lives. Additionally, in the past, patients would normally travel to the doctor or the doctor would have to become licensed in each state in which he or she saw patients.  This created a practical limit on the range of one’s practice as well as some patients’ access to medical care.  The ever-increasing ability to consult with patients from afar using electronic means, means that doctors and patients have greater access to each other, without the time and expense of traveling to be in the same location.  However, state laws still require medical professionals be licensed where the patient is located, which can hamper the benefits provided by technology.  See also, “Practicing Telemedicine Across State Borders: New Expedited Licenses Permit Physicians to Expand Practice,” Marki Stewart, Dickinson Wright Health Law Blog, May 22, 2017.

In an effort to address these issues, Georgia has been considering joining the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.  Under the Compact, Georgia physicians would still have to comply with the licensure requirements, but that compliance would become much easier.  Once a physician possesses a full and unrestricted medical license in one of the 20 participating states, the physician need only follow a few comparatively simple procedures to receive an “expedited” license in another member state.  In addition to educational requirements, the licensee must not have a criminal conviction of any kind, not have been disciplined by a medical licensing board (other than for non-payment of fees), not had his or her controlled substance license suspended or revoked, and not be under active investigation by any licensing board or law enforcement agency.  If these requirements are met, the physician may file an application with the licensing board of a state in which he or she is already licensed, which becomes his or her “state of principal license.”  That board then verifies if the physician is eligible for an expedited license and issues a “letter of qualification” to the Interstate Commission.  After verification, the physician completes a registration process to receive a license in a member state.  Once a member state board receives the verification of the physician’s eligibility and any required fees, it issues an expedited license.  The expedited license is a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine.

If Georgia does become a member of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, following one streamlined application process for licensing in other states will allow physicians more freedom to consult with patients in a larger geographic area.  The Compact procedure along with technological advances also means that many patients’ medical care will not be nearly so dependent on where the patient happens to live.

Hamil Little PC

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