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Policy

The digital age has presented numerous benefits for a variety of economic sectors with the health industry among the biggest winners. From faster communication between patients and health professionals to better service delivery, health organizations have seen improvements in a variety of daily operations. Sadly, the digital age is a double-edged sword, and as more health organizations use the latest technology, there is the looming threat of poor data security.

Telehealth has taken off in Arizona and nationwide, and policy-makers have been scrambling to keep up. To focus on the policy issues affecting and being affected by the growth of telemedicine and telehealth, the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) and Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC) hosted the inaugural Arizona Telemedicine Policy Symposium Sept. 23 in Phoenix.

ATP Director Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, and Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Robert “Bob” Burns opened the symposium, which attracted more than 120 attendees. The agenda featured an amazing lineup of policy and telehealth leaders discussing recent and exciting changes to telehealth policy and future changes needed. As the emcee, I had a front-row seat to hear about all that is happening—and there’s a lot!

Physicians practicing telemedicine have celebrated the implementation of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (“Compact”), which permits physicians practicing telemedicine to easily and quickly obtain a license to practice medicine in a number of states.  However, physicians becoming licensed in multiple states should be aware of the serious responsibilities and risks of multi-state licensure. 

As the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence approaches, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of independence: The growing freedom from constraints on telehealth coverage.

Several recent and upcoming changes in telehealth policy are converging – nationally and here in Arizona – to reduce limitations on coverage.

Seventeen states have enacted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact so far, with 9 more states introducing Compact legislation. (Map courtesy of the Federation of State Medical Boards, http://licenseportability.org/)

Arizona is now one of 17 states to sign on to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which provides an expedited licensing process for physicians interested in practicing in multiple states.

Another nine states have introduced legislation to join the Compact, which is expected to expand access to health care for people living in rural and underserved areas of the country, while facilitating the use of telemedicine in those areas.

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