Draft senate bill to ease telehealth licensure challenges

By Brian Dolan
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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAt some point this Spring, and perhaps as early as April, Senator Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, plans to introduce a bill that would help ease some of the biggest barriers currently facing telehealth. The expected bill, which is still being drafted, would streamline licensure portability for physicians and make it easier for them to practice telemedicine in more than one state.

Udall's legislative assistant Fern Goodhart told Government Health IT that the bill would streamline licensure for physicians by creating a unified set of standardized data in a comprehensive, interoperable database of primary source verified credentials that might include claims history, hospital privileges, and criminal background check with one unified application. Goodhart also predicted that multi-state could just be the beginning and telemedicine could have nationwide licensure ultimately.

GlobalMed Blog adds some more details: "Senator Udall’s bill would set up a voluntary system in which doctors would be licensed by their state boards who would retain jurisdiction for disciplinary issues. At the same time, doctors could sign up for a national license that would [allow] them to practice any medicine – not just telemedicine – in any cooperating state. A Udall aide says that the bill may have to include some incentives to bring states along with the concept. (For medical board buy-in, especially those that will lose license fees from physicians who hold multiple state licenses, this may be a key component.)"

In an earlier post, GlobalMed Blog noted that the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) believes Udall's bill is on the wrong track: Lisa Robin, the FSMB’s Chief Advocacy Officer said that: “The FSMB and representatives of the New Mexico Medical Board have conveyed to the Senator (Udall) strong opposition to the draft legislation in its current form, arguing that the bill undermines state-based licensure and replaces it with a national licensure system that has potential to compromise state autonomy in the regulation and practice of medicine and the protection of the public,” according to the post. Robin told Udall FSMB would help Udall rework it.

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA), which organized the meeting during which Goodhart shared Udall's plans for the bill, summed up the meeting like so: "It was pointed out that the issues went beyond telemedicine to include the millions of travelers, large employers and others. Concerns came from both rural and urban areas and included both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress. Legislation to address the issues is being drafted by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and a variety of approaches to resolve the problems are under consideration by a number of parties."

These are important developments for mobile health -- here's hoping they lead to real action.

If you missed the meeting but would like to tune in, the full 1.5 hour video of it is available over at Vimeo here.

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