Providers aim to cut nurse licensing requirements to encourage telemedicine growth

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Some healthcare providers are pushing state lawmakers to relax rules requiring nurses to be licensed for each state they work in, claiming the laws are stunting telemedicine growth.

The groups are seeking more states to join nursing licensing compacts, which require states to implement fingerprint-based state and federal criminal background checks. Nurses who pass the checks can then hold a multi-state nursing license, and provide patient care via phone or the internet.

Advocates of the nursing compacts, which include the Mayo Clinic, say it would help clear the path for the ever-growing field of telemedicine, which is expected to boom to $1.9 billion in 2018 — up from just $240 million in 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported. But the compacts have raised suspicions from nurses' groups and unions, who say the multi-state licenses could put patients at risk and take away providers' bargaining powers.

“Massachusetts has higher requirements than other states,” David Schildmeier, a spokesman with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, told the WSJ. “This would allow nurses from other states to work here. We don't want their problems to invade our state.”

Currently, 25 states belong to the multi-state nurse licensure compact, which began in 1999. The renewed push for members has led seven states — Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming — to draft legislation to join into the compact.

Some experts predict the multi-state compacts and the growth of telemedicine may help nurses find work, and help boost the nursing industry overall.

“The idea of compacts is important, useful and gets practitioners to where the jobs are,” Morris Kleiner, economist and professor at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, told the WSJ. “It's a source of labor-market efficiency.”