Tennessee's adoption of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact brings opportunities, challenges01.30.19
On January 1, Tennessee adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (the “Compact”), adding Tennessee to the list of 23 other states, the District of Columbia and Guam, which have adopted the Compact. The adoption of the Compact will likely expand the practice of telemedicine by physicians both in Tennessee and around the country by making it easier for physicians licensed in other states to treat Tennessee patients and for Tennessee physicians to become licensed in other states.
However, the adoption of the Compact may also present additional challenges and regulatory pitfalls for physicians and their employers.
Whenever a physician becomes licensed in multiple states, he or she is subject to the laws and opinions of the medical board in each of those states, and enforcement against the physician in one state may impact his or her licensure in other states.
The Compact goes one step further. It states that any disciplinary action taken by a state board against a physician who is licensed through the Compact shall be deemed unprofessional conduct and may result in discipline by state boards in other member states. The consequences of a disciplinary action against a physician’s license may depend upon which state the physician adopts as his “state of principal license.” When a physician obtains licensure under the Compact, he or she must designate a “state of principal license,” which is typically the state in which he or she primarily practices.
If the physician’s license in his or her principal state is revoked, suspended, or surrendered or relinquished in lieu of discipline, then all licenses issued to the physician by other member states will automatically be placed on the same status. If disciplinary action is taken by a state board outside of the physician’s state of principal license, all other licenses will not automatically be placed on the same status. However, any other member state may uphold the other state’s action and either (i) impose the same or lesser sanction against the physician or (ii) pursue separate disciplinary action.
While Tennessee’s adoption of the Compact presents many opportunities for physicians and their employers, care must be taken to ensure that the physician adheres to the specific requirements of each state in which he or she is licensed. For each of these states, the physician should examine the statutes, regulations, guidance documents and advisory opinions of the state medical board. Additionally, the Compact creates an Interstate Medical Licensure Commission (“Commission”), which has the authority to promulgate rules and issue advisory opinions related to the Compact. Therefore, physicians should also review the regulations and advisory opinions published by the Commission in order to ensure compliance with any additional requirements related to the Compact. Essentially, a physician’s failure to carefully follow all requirements adopted by each state of licensure and the Commission could have serious consequences for the physician’s ability to practice in all other states in which he or she is licensed.