An increasing number of doctors with out-of-state practices could fly to Wyoming and see patients at a day clinic, now that seven state legislatures have joined the Cowboy State in an agreement to expedite physician licensing requirements.
With the approval of the eight states -- Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Alabama, Minnesota and West Virginia -- the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact can organize, said Kevin Bohnenblust, executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine, the state agency that licenses physicians.
The effect in Wyoming, which has doctor shortages in many specialties, is more physicians crossing the state boarder to treat Wyoming patients monthly or weekly, Bohnenblust said. A specialist from Denver could fly to Gillette and treat patients for a day, for example.
“They can bring that specialty care to Gillette, which that population wouldn’t support” with a full-time physician, he said. “And for procedures, maybe (patients) can go to Denver.”
The agreement will also likely increase telemedicine, in which physicians treat patients over the phone or through Internet, often using a web cam.
Currently, physicians licensed in one state who want to treat patients in other states must apply separately to each state, which requires them sending proof of medical school graduation, exam scores, specialty board certifications and other information, Bohnenblust said.
Under the interstate agreement, physicians who live in compact states will notify their state medical boards they would like a license in another compact state, he said.
Their home state medical boards would check their licenses and perform criminal background checks, whether they have been disciplined for the way they practice medicine. If doctors clear the check, they would get an expedited license that would allow them to practice in the new state, he said.
In February, the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill in support of the compact, making the state the first to approve it, Bohnenblust said.
The Wyoming Medical Society, which represents physicians, supported the bill.
“This would make the medical licensure process much more streamlined, which would in theory make it easier for physicians to move into the state or if the specialty allowed it, use telemedicine as well,” said Tom Lacock, the society’s communications director.
Wyoming also took the lead in the agreement’s conception.
About two years ago, former Gov. Jim Geringer spoke in favor of portability of licensing to a conference of licensing board professionals in the United States and Canada. A couple months later, the Wyoming Board of Medicine asked colleagues in other states to study the idea. It caught on from there, Bohnenblust said.
Seven states were needed to bring the compact to life. Although eight have signed on, more could join in coming months, he said.
The compact states can form an organization, create bylaws and discuss design of a database to track medical license discipline, Bohnenblust said.
He's hoping for January 2017.
“But that is an estimate," Bohnenblust said. "We’ve never done this before.”