Telemedicine and Medical Licensing: What the Future Holds

In an era when remote work and online shopping are the norm, it’s no surprise that telemedicine has become so popular. Using telecommunications technology to assess, diagnose and treat medical conditions gives people access to quality care from remote locations. 

From a provider’s perspective, telemedicine allows you to offer care to a wider population. However, this creates new concerns about licensure. This article digs into the obstacles medical providers face when obtaining telemedicine licenses and the steps they can take to overcome them. 

The Current State of Telemedicine

Telemedicine has a long history but has only recently become a mainstream healthcare solution. Since the late 1800s, medical providers have explored ways to use communication technology to make medical treatment more accessible and convenient.

The Shift to Telemedicine

The transformation of telemedicine from a niche service to a common practice didn’t really occur until the COVID-19 pandemic. Many providers began meeting with patients over the phone or video chat to reduce the spread of illness. The number of telemedicine appointments increased by 766% during the first few months of the pandemic. 

Telemedicine Services and Technologies

Telemedicine is now useful for many different types of care, including:

  • Mental health treatment 
  • Prescription management
  • Recurring conditions
  • Acute symptoms

These services are possible because of advanced technology, including video conferencing apps like Skype and Zoom. In addition, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) helps medical professionals monitor their patients’ health remotely.

Telemedicine’s Impact on Medical Licensing

In some ways, medical licensing for telemedicine is no different from traditional providers. Most of the licensure requirements, including education and clinical exams, are the same. However, providers face some unique challenges when obtaining a telemedicine license. 

Telemedicine physician licensure is complicated because providers often practice across state lines. This means they must meet vastly different licensing requirements for multiple states.

For example, providers in Delaware who are practicing in a state that doesn’t participate in an interstate compact have to obtain an interstate telehealth registration. In Oklahoma, on the other hand, any telehealth provider must have a valid state license to practice. 

Some states also place limitations on situations that allow for telemedicine. They may only permit providers to practice across state lines if their care is infrequent, such as in emergency situations. 

This leaves providers in a difficult position. They not only have to research licensing requirements in multiple states, but they may also have to fill out separate applications. Applying for more than one state license can also become expensive, with fees in some states exceeding $500.

The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) and Its Role

State medical boards have long recognized the need for a new approach to telemedicine licensing. As a result, they developed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). 

The IMLC expedites the licensure process by allowing providers to complete one application. Although they still have to obtain licenses from each state, the process is much faster and less difficult. 

Currently, 37 states, the District of Columbia and the Territory of Guam participate in the IMLC. The organization predicts that additional states will join down the line.

Future Trends in Telemedicine and Licensing

Experts expect more states to establish state reciprocity agreements and look for new ways to make telemedical licensing more straightforward and efficient. Some members of the industry have recommended instituting a national licensing board. However, this would require federal legislation and would likely face court challenges from state governments. 

Developing technologies, including AI and machine learning, will also enable specialized providers to offer their services to patients across the country. This will offer greater motivation for state medical boards to clear the way for simpler multi-state licensing. 

Navigating Telemedicine Licensing: Tips for Medical Professionals

Whether you’re a new or seasoned member of the healthcare field, the licensing procedures for telemedicine can be confusing. Follow these tips as you go through the process: 

  • Decide where you want to provide care and research the individual licensure requirements for each state. 
  • Fill out any required licensure applications carefully and accurately to avoid delays. 
  • Keep complete, up-to-date records of your academic and professional credentials. 
  • Turn to specialized services like Medical Licensure Group (MLG), which provides one-on-one licensure assistance. 

Keep in mind that licensing processes aren’t set in stone. As telemedicine becomes more popular, state licensure boards will continue to revise their regulations. Stay informed about any changes so that your license remains in good standing.

MLG’s Role in Telemedicine Licensure

Telemedicine is one of the most important trends in the modern medical world, and it has enormously influenced medical licensing. Moving forward, healthcare providers will need to become more adaptable to care for patients across state lines. Taking a proactive approach will help you obtain and maintain your license, but questions are inevitable. That’s where MLG comes in. We offer support and guidance for traditional and telemedicine licensing. Call 850.433.4600 or submit an online request to learn how MLG can help you navigate the licensure process.