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Telemedicine Helps Bring Patients to Doctors

By Senator John Thune

May 29, 2015

An increasing number of South Dakotans are seeking the use of telemedicine, which makes it easier for physicians to see patients that may not be able to travel as easily or frequently to where their physician practices. It can be particularly useful when patients are seeking medical care from a specialty provider located outside of the state. Despite its advantages, without a way to more efficiently license physicians across state lines, telemedicine advancement is hindered.

In March 2013, I led a bipartisan letter to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), an organization of state boards of medicine responsible for regulating medicine in each state, encouraging them to begin development of a comprehensive system that would allow states to retain control of medical licensure and ensure the safety of patients who choose to use telemedicine.

During its past legislative session, the South Dakota state legislature was one of the first states that opted to join a compact that would speed up the process of licensing physicians who wish to practice in multiple states. Just recently, a sufficient number of states opted into the compact, making it an effective way to more easily license physicians in multiple states. 

Expediting the process by which physicians can be licensed and practicing telemedicine in multiple states in a safe and accountable manner is important, and I am pleased that several of my Senate colleagues have joined me in encouraging FSMB to address this barrier to effective telemedicine. I am particularly pleased that this compact is now in force and can be used to continue to advance the adoption of telemedicine. 

I am committed to continuing telemedicine’s advancement in a way that both preserves states’ ability to regulate medicine within their borders and protect their patients. Allowing states to share information, while allowing each state to retain jurisdiction over physicians who choose to practice in the state, is in the best interest of both physicians and patients. 

This compact keeps patients safe by preserving state-based licensure and is a win for doctors and patients.