As demand for telemedicine grows, more doctors are seeking licenses in multiple states so they can tap into the technology to treat patients across state lines, Christina Farr reports for CNBC.
A demand for telemedicine—and medical licenses
While providers have been dabbling in telemedicine for roughly a decade, the service is becoming mainstream with the adoption of new regulations, Farr reports. Plus, there's plenty of demand for physicians and medical services, Farr reports.
Jon Larson, CEO of MedSpoke, a physician licensing company, said, "There's a big shortage of physicians, and technology offers us a better way to solve this problem."
But while telemedicine can mean greater access to care for patients, doctors can only treat patients via telemedicine if doctors have appropriate licensure to practice in the state where patients are located, according to Farr.
That's why some doctors and telemedicine startups are trying to increase the number of licenses they have, Farr reports. Right now, only a handful of physicians are licensed in all 50 states, but the number is on the rise, according to data from the Federation of State Medical Boards. According to the organization, 14 physicians were licensed everywhere in the United States, a big increase from six doctors in 2016.
Physicians with many licenses may appeal to telemedicine startups that seek to treat patients across the country. CirrusMD, a chat-first virtual provider, for instance, has brought on a few physicians who have licenses in many states, Farr reports.
Another option for startups seeking to treat patients throughout the country is to hire doctors with one or two licenses in different states, according to Farr.
Zachariah Reitano, CEO of Ro, an online pharmacy and telemedicine company, said hiring physicians with multiple licenses is "incredibly beneficial for patients. It enables a physician to treat patients in care deserts and increases access to care where there aren't enough providers available."
The trend is still 'rare'
But despite the growing interest in having physicians get more licenses, it's still extremely rare for a physician to be licensed in all 50 states, Farr reports. Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner at law firm Foley & Lardner, said, "It's still uncommon, but we see more of it."
One reason there are so few doctors with 50 licenses is because of the licensing process, according to Farr. For instance, while there are some "shortcuts" to accumulating about two-dozen licenses, these shortcuts aren't available to all physicians, Farr reports.
The due diligence process can be complicated, too, as the state medical boards will contact other state board where the physician is licensed, Far writes (Farr, CNBC, 10/13).