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Law BY KARA NUZBACK


Caring across state lines


LICENSURE COMPACT WOULD EASE INTERSTATE CARE FOR TEXAS PHYSICIANS


A


bill up for consideration in the Texas Legislature would give Texas phy- sicians a speedy way to become licensed in other states. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact would expedite the process to obtain a li-


cense to practice medicine in any state that participates in the compact, making it easier for physicians to move from state to state or to practice telemedicine. R. Russell Thomas, DO, a family medicine physician at Rice Medical Center


in Eagle Lake and a member of the Texas Medical Association Council on So- cioeconomics, says underserved areas along the Texas border are in dire need of more physicians. In underserved communities, where the closest metropolitan hospital may be in another state, the compact would reduce the administra- tive burden on hospitals that offer telemedicine to patients across state lines, as well as the burden on physicians who opt to travel to see out-of-state patients in person. Dr. Thomas says certain specialties, including psychiatry, are limited in many


areas of Texas. He says telemedicine gives him the ability to arrange for his pa- tients to speak with a top psychiatrist in any area of the country. Telemedicine services should be used to enhance care from local physicians, rather than to replace in-person services, he says. Dr. Thomas says if the Texas Legislature approves the compact, it could help


put Texas on the map as a destination for cancer care by allowing institutions like The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to support physicians treating patients beyond Texas borders. He says it could also attract the coun- try’s top medical talent to the state. “Texas is certainly in need of physicians, and that need continues to grow,” he


said. Anything that makes it more convenient or practical to practice medicine in the state “can only be a benefit for us,” he added. At least seven states must adopt the licensure compact for it to take effect,


and the Texas Legislature is set to consider whether the Lone Star State will be among the first. Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), prefiled Senate Bill 190 on Nov. 24. The bill aligns with model legislation (tma.tips/ModelCom pact) written by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). If enacted into law, SB 190 would establish Texas as a member of the compact. To read the bill, visit tma.tips/SenateBill190. Senator Schwertner says Texas is one of many states with a physician short-


age, and a quicker licensure process is one way to encourage physicians to come to Texas. He says he sponsored SB 190 because it maintains the state’s high standards for board certification. The Texas Legislature cannot change the compact; each state must adopt


March 2015 TEXAS MEDICINE 45


The compact would adopt the prevailing standard that the practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located at the time of


treatment.


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