Grant aids effort to share licensing data

Leaders of the Federation of State Medical Boards saw a greater need to make it easier to access physician credentials after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

By Damon Adams — Posted Nov. 13, 2006

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The Federation of State Medical Boards received $1 million in federal money to examine ways to reduce licensing barriers for doctors who practice telemedicine or are licensed in more than one state.

The three-year grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration's Office for the Advancement of Telehealth will pay for proposals by two groups of medical boards seeking to improve how boards share information for physician licensing, the FSMB said. The federation, medical boards and a telemedicine group also are contributing more than $785,000 to the project.

The medical boards want to develop one central database that would provide boards with quick access to credentials that confirm a doctor's qualifications to practice. Two groups of medical boards are working on separate projects but will be under the federation's guidance.

The federation said the system would lessen paperwork and time needed to issue medical licenses and would make it easier for doctors to have their credentials verified in multiple states.

"These pilot efforts are both a help to the physician and the medical board," said Dale Austin, FSMB senior vice president and chief operating officer. "We're trying to seek ways to expedite and simplify [the process]."

Federation leaders said license portability is becoming a bigger issue as more doctors practice telemedicine, open practices in multiple states and communicate with patients via the Internet. About one in five practicing physicians has a license in two or more states.

Streamlining the licensing process would encourage more doctors to take part in telemedicine, according to federation officials. That's important, they said, because telemedicine is playing a more prominent role in reaching out to patients in underserved areas.

The improvements also would help mobilize physicians after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, when medical boards need to quickly share information about doctors who volunteer.

Of the two medical board groups involved in the project, one group consists of boards from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The other group is comprised of boards from Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming.

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Portability pros

Medical board leaders say demonstration projects would show the benefits of license portability, including:

  • Increased access to medical services for patients in underserved areas
  • Improved ability to mobilize physicians during disasters
  • Eased mobility for physicians and multistate practices
  • Reduced barriers to telemedicine across state lines
  • Streamlined licensing application process
  • Decreased redundancies associated with obtaining licensure in multiple states

Source: Federation of State Medical Boards' 2006 Trends in Physician Regulation

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