Hundreds of groups ask governors to expand telehealth licensure flexibilities



More than 230 healthcare and industry organizations wrote a letter to governors across the country asking for expanded access to telehealth via licensure flexibilities.

The expiration of such flexibilities, said the groups, could abruptly prevent some patients from seeing their doctors virtually – a particularly troubling matter for immunocompromised people still at risk for COVID-19.  

“Given the urgency of the times as more states consider rolling back flexibilities enacted at the start of the pandemic, states must act now to ensure patients can access the care they need where they reside and when they need it, without having to choose between cancelling an appointment or traveling long distances and risking potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus for an in-person visit,” read the letter.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

The letter was signed by a diverse range of organizations, including:  

  • Industry representatives such as Amazon, Amwell, Epic and Kroger
  • Associations such as HIMSS (parent company of Healthcare IT News), the American Health Information Management Association, the American Telemedicine Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare
  • Academic institutions including Cornell University, New York University, Penn State University and Princeton University
  • Health systems such as Intermountain Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, Mass General Brigham and Nemours Children’s Health  

The groups noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, expanded licensure flexibilities allowed medical professionals to expand their scope of treatment to patients across state lines.  

However, many states have begun to allow pandemic-era emergency declarations to expire – despite the lingering crisis.  

“This has been extremely detrimental and disruptive to necessary and ongoing patient care,” read the letter. “Healthcare providers have had to scramble to notify thousands of out-of-state patients that their telehealth appointments were no longer possible, and that they would have to drive across state borders to keep their appointments.”  

The groups noted that some patients have resorted to driving over state lines to take a telehealth appointment from a parking lot, rather than facing a disruption to care.  

The organizations asked state governors and legislatures keep licensure and telehealth flexibilities in place throughout the duration of the federal public health emergency; work with health experts to implement solutions to address the ongoing impact of the pandemic on patient care; and expand their participation in health professional compacts that allow for the safe and accountable mutual recognition of health professional licensure among states.  

“This is critical to ensure patient access to necessary healthcare services and providers,” read the letter.  

THE LARGER TREND  

Experts have predicted the difficulties with state licensure flexibilities since nearly the beginning of the pandemic. Most federal legislation to protect telehealth access has skirted the issue altogether.  

But state licensure compacts offer an alternative, allowing providers to more easily practice in other states without compelling elected officials to relinquish control altogether.  

ON THE RECORD  

“The undersigned organizations strongly urge all state governors to maintain and expand licensure flexibilities for the duration of the federal public health emergency, reinstating licensure flexibilities if they have expired or implementing new flexibilities to better address patient needs during the ongoing pandemic,” read the letter.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.





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