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What’s the No. 1 Regulatory Issue Facing State Medical Boards? You Might Be Surprised . . .

What would you guess is the most pressing regulatory topic facing state medical boards?

Opioid prescribing? Physician re-entry into practice? Medical marijuana?

Those are all on the list of results from a Federation of State Medical Boards survey. 

But it’s telemedicine that ranks No. 1.

The online journal Healthcare Informatics published the Federation’s survey results in its Dec. 20, 2016, issue (when few of us were focused on medical boards’ regulatory challenges).

Fifty-seven of the 70 state medical boards and osteopathic boards in the U.S. completed the survey.

Additional, telemedicine regulation figured prominently in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report to Congress last year.  According to Healthcare Informatics, the report stated that “federal leaders and healthcare stakeholders have come to several key conclusions regarding telehealth policy,” including:

  • Payment reform, especially more coverage from Medicare, is critical;
  • State licensure barriers can block healthcare providers’ enthusiasm about telehealth;
  • Broadband connections are still not reaching many rural hospitals and clinics.

“Telemedicine is so big and so many physicians want to practice across state lines, that all boards have to deal with this in their own state,” said Dr. Tim Hunter, a UA professor emeritus of radiology who serves on the Arizona Telemedicine Program Council.

Dr. Hunter previously served on the Arizona Medical Board from 1997 – when telemedicine was still new in Arizona – to 2006.

“Most medical boards want to have state control of licensing, but I think, in general, they want to make practicing medicine in multiple states as easy as possible,” Dr. Hunter said.

For the record, Arizona became the 14th state to sign on to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, in May 2016.

“I was a little surprised” that telemedicine out-ranked both the opioid epidemic and medical marijuana as the No. 1 regulatory issue for medical boards, Dr. Hunter said. 

“But as we all know, telemedicine has become a big and important part of the practice of medicine.”

Dr. Marc Berg, professor of pediatrics and anesthesiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, and a member of the Arizona Medical Board said he was “not surprised one bit” by the survey’s findings.

“Our board considers telemedicine regulation a very serious topic, and we deal with it frequently,” Dr. Berg said. “What we have to address is all the differences in state statutes regulating telemedicine. We have got to come up with a 50-state solution.”

Given the nation’s shortage of rural doctors, and shortage of general doctors, and its rapidly aging population, “the opportunity to extend care through technology is a huge promise,” he said. “Telemedicine is here to stay, and that’s a good thing.”


To read the Healthcare Informatics article:

About the Author

Jane Erikson's picture

Jane Erikson joined the staff of the Arizona Telemedicine Program in April 2013. She was already familiar with the program, as she previously wrote about the program during her nearly 20 years of covering health care for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Jane has lived in Arizona most of her life and is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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