Licensing and credentialing telehealth providers can pose challenges to expanding telehealth programs in rural communities. Licensing refers to the process of securing the authority to practice medicine within a state. Credentialing refers to the process of verifying the provider's license, education, insurance, and other information to ensure they meet the standards of practice required by the hospital or healthcare facility. Virtually all states require physicians providing telehealth services to be licensed in the state of the patient receiving care. Further, every site delivering telehealth services must fully credential the physician.

Licensing and credentialing are intended to protect patients by ensuring that telehealth providers are in compliance with state regulations and hospital policies. However, licensing and credentialing can be time-consuming administrative processes, and rural telehealth programs with limited resources may become burdened by renewing licenses for providers to practice in several states and hospitals. In addition, states require medical licenses to be renewed periodically, typically every one to two years.

Some states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas, have also developed out-of-state telehealth licenses in order to facilitate the licensing process. Tennessee's Osteopathic Board also offers an out-of-state telemedicine license. These licenses enable providers to practice telehealth across state lines, though they are not licensed to provide in-person care. Rural communities may need to investigate state laws and policies to understand licensing requirements and exceptions.

Rural communities seeking to streamline the telehealth credentialing process should be aware of the credentialing by proxy method approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission. Credentialing by proxy can help rural programs expand telehealth services by allowing community and Critical Access Hospitals (the originating sites of telehealth) to rely on the credentialing process of distant telehealth sites. The California Telehealth Resource Center offers a privileging and credentialing checklist that can help rural communities shape the written agreement between the originating and distant sites. Provider Bridge also offers a technology platform to streamline the licensure process, which may help rural communities to mobilize healthcare providers quickly during states of emergency.

Watchdog can assist you in rapidly licensing and credentialing your telehealth providers ensuring their ability to see and bill for patients in all states necessary.  Don’t let delays in credentialing your telehealth providers slow down your organization’s growth.

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