In response to the mounting nationwide shortage of healthcare workers, one state will allow certain healthcare workers to practice solely on out-of-state licenses. This move may signal similar actions by other states and could have wide-ranging implications for the delivery of healthcare services.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states waived requirements that healthcare providers, including in some cases physicians and nurses, be licensed in a particular state to provide services in that state. Often, states allowed a provider licensed and in good standing in any state to providers services to patients within the state based on the provider’s out-of-state licenses. This regulatory flexibility allowed more efficient delivery of care during the pandemic. The greatest efficiency was likely added to the delivery of telemedicine. Quite simply, there is often no technical or practice-related reason why a provider seeing patients via telemedicine must be licensed in the same state as their patient. By waiving regulatory obstacles, providers could practice across state lines by telemedicine and help deliver care to where it was needed most.
However, most of these regulatory flexibilities were only temporary and have since ended, meaning that physicians and providers again must often be licensed in a state to provide services to patients within that state. However, while these flexibilities have largely ended, the shortage of physicians and other healthcare workers, which pre-dates the pandemic, have only grown more acute during the pandemic. In response to these shortages, Nebraska will allow some healthcare workers, including PT, OT, and SLP therapists, to practice in Nebraska without a Nebraska license if the provider is licensed in another state. This move is currently only temporary and does not extend to physicians or nurses.
While the action by Nebraska echoes prior flexibilities that addressed the pandemic, it is instead a direct response to the large and systemic issue of healthcare worker shortages. If similar actions become widespread and apply to more providers, such as physicians, it could have widespread implications. Most notably, physicians and other healthcare providers licensed in one state could potentially treat patients in other states via telemedicine without the need to be licensed in each state in which a patient happens to be located. In this scenario, physicians would almost certainly still need to comply with any applicable standard of care and any regulations regarding the formation of the physician-patient relationship, but allowing more telemedicine across state lines is one potential measure in responding to the shortage in healthcare providers.
For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters, and our attorneys can assist providers and suppliers in understanding and healthcare licensing and telemedicine. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.