Doctors who want to practice medicine in multiple states now have a faster way to obtain licensure thanks to a compact created by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), a national nonprofit representing the 70 medical and osteopathic boards of the United States and its territories.

FSMB passed a resolution in its 2013 annual meeting to commission representatives from state medical boards and special experts to explore the formation of an Interstate Compact to enhance license portability.

Four years later, this past April, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission (IMLCC) officially began accepting applications.

To date, 20 states have adopted the Compact and another five, along with the District of Columbia, have introduced legislation.

Licensure Map

Reasons for Compact’s Creation

According to IMLCC, the compact was created to "increase access to health care for patients in underserved or rural areas and allowing them to more easily connect with medical experts through the use of telemedicine technologies."

In an announcement, FSMB President and CEO, Humayun Chaudhry, DO, MACP, called the launch an important “milestone in the history of medical regulation” in the United States and a “major win for patient safety,” an action that will lessen the current burden on health care resources nationwide.

Another, albeit secondary, reason was to remove roadblocks for doctors who wanted to practice across state lines or move to another state whatever the impetus -- something the existing system does not facilitate.

"Under the current method, each state has its own approval process, which slows down licensure for clinicians who want to locate to another state," said Stephen Nichols, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Schumacher Clinical Partners.

"Receiving a license could take anywhere from three to twelve months depending on the state, and that's for easy licenses. If something had to undergo review, it could take even longer. The Compact removes those barriers, enabling expedited approval."

Compact Physician Qualifications

Physicians who qualify under the Compact’s rules (approximately 80 percent do according to the IMLCC website) can select the states where they want to practice. Participating states expedite licensure by leveraging the physicians existing information previously submitted in their state of principal license.

To be eligible for entry into the Compact‘s process, physicians must:

  • Hold a full and unrestricted license in a Compact member state;
  • Be certified (or “grandfathered”) in a medical specialty;
  • Have no history of being disciplined, penalized, or punished by a court, medical licensing agency, or the Drug Enforcement Administration; and 
  • Meet several other robust requirements.

Doctors must also pay a $700 application fee plus the cost of a license in the state(s) where they select to practice.

Telemedicine Benefits

While the Compact has advantages for doctors throughout the country, it particularly helps clinicians practicing in telemedicine settings.

"The Compact benefits telemedicine’s growth potential," Dr. Nichols said. "Many health problems are limited enough in scope to be taken care of with telehealth. Being able to practice across states lines only increases its potential.”

Physicians who want to learn more about the Compact’s provisions and qualification requirements or to apply for multi-state licensure should visit the IMLCC website.