The rise of telemedicine has created a new era of convenience, as patients increasingly seek care via their smartphone devices and physicians extend their patient base beyond state borders. But the digital shift occurring between clinical visits has presented providers with frustrating challenges when it comes to obtaining proper licensure for delivering virtually-enabled health services.
The advances in telehealth technology have transformed healthcare systems and the provider practice model. One survey from American Well found that physician adoption of telehealth surged more than 340% — and projects that up to 600,000 physicians could be practicing telemedicine by next year.
With patients growing comfortable with virtual visits, providers can create new efficiencies in their practice delivering care through video visits and other virtual patient communication, creating scheduling flexibility, better patient health outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
Expanding telehealth services can also provide physician-owned or group provider practices with a boost in revenue. With telemedicine, providers are able to reduce overhead costs related to administrative tasks and on-site staffing, allowing them to reallocate their time and resources into reaching new patients beyond their brick-and-mortar practices.
Perhaps more importantly, health payers, including some government agencies, are ramping up reimbursement for telehealth services following the health crisis. While it remains to be seen how rapidly health plans will adapt — or stick to — the changing outlook, healthcare systems and health providers will continue to pursue telemedicine expansions in the areas where it makes the most sense for the success of their patients and practice.
Telemedicine is considered the next frontier of care delivery. Yet, even with the telehealth transformation underway, providers continue to be hampered by the complex process of medical licensing as they pursue providing virtually-enabled care. If you’re a physician-owned practice or a group provider, there are several steps you can take to ease the process of licensing your providers as you look toward scaling telehealth.
We’ve collected our Top 4 tips below.
#1: Get Familiar with State Regulations
Most states’ laws and regulations require a physician to be licensed in the same state they are providing care, as well as every state in which they intend to practice — a demand the American Telemedicine Association has called on state governors to reconsider during the health crisis and beyond.
“Requirements that a provider be licensed in the state where a patient is located present significant challenges to rapidly expanding access to care as we work to combat COVID-19,” the association’s president Ann Mond Johnson said in a statement at the time.
During the pandemic, many states abated licensing restrictions to accommodate patients and healthcare systems under lockdown measures and allow for interstate practice.To prevent delays in licensing, providers should review each state medical board’s requirements for telehealth in advance, such as through the Federation of State Medical Board’s website.
At least nine states have enacted licensing portability related to telehealth, including Texas which has an Out-of-State Telemedicine License and the states of Maryland, New York and Virginia which all provide licensing reciprocity between bordering states — but the debate continues around eliminating geographic restrictions for telehealth providers permanently. Providers may want to submit their curriculum vitae to their state licensing board ahead of submitting an application to flag any issues early in the process.
#2: Be Proactive About Licensing Prep
One of the biggest mistakes made during the licensure process is failing to collect and submit all of the required documentation. It’s important that providers consider the processing times, since medical boards are often inundated with licensing inquiries. In some cases, obtaining a medical licensure can take anywhere between a few weeks to up to six months or more for application processing.
In addition to gaining an understanding of state-specific licensing policies, providers will need to obtain primary source verification documenting the validity of their education, medical training, privileges and complete a background check. Sending in current and past licenses, and other relevant professional history is also required before submitting their application.
While it’s not uncommon for medical boards to request additional information along the way, it’s best for providers to take their time building a thorough file to prevent things from falling through the cracks and help expedite the process.
#3 For MD/DOs, Consider joining the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
There are resources available to grant licensing across state lines, including for providers looking to expand into telehealth. The largest of these organizations is the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, also known as the Telemedicine Licensure Compact, which offers physicians an expedited pathway for multistate licensure.
To become eligible, physicians must already hold a full and unrestricted medical license from one of the participating states. The IMLC currently includes more than 30 states and reports at least 80% of U.S. physicians meet the eligibility requirements.
Physicians can qualify to practice medicine in multiple states by completing a single application within the Compact, receiving separate licenses in each state they intend to deliver care significantly faster than the traditional licensing route.
Today, more than 21,000 physicians have obtained multistate and telemedicine licensing through the Compact.
#4 Put Provider Licensing on Autopilot
As practices continue to expand telehealth services and elevate the patient experience, the old ways of managing provider licensing can no longer keep up with the complexity of the current healthcare delivery environment. And while states continue to address the issue of interstate regulatory reforms, it remains to be seen which new legislation or measures will become permanent.
It shouldn’t have to be this difficult. Medallion empowers health systems, physician-owned practices and provider groups to experience the simplest way to expand clinical reach. We combine automation with an extensive data infrastructure and predictive analytics to help providers obtain telehealth licensing in all 50 states. We can also help navigate the growing role of compacts — for all major provider types.
By eliminating the burdens put on in-house administration teams and reducing the amount of paperwork needed to process applications, providers can reshift their focus back to growing their practices and elevating patient care. Request a demo today.