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Doctor Licensing Plan Could Help Rural Indiana

National Cancer Institute

A new plan to allow multi-state licensing for physicians could help fill the gap in areas of Indiana without enough health-care services. If at least seven state legislatures agree to what's known as a multi-state compact, a licensed doctor could easily get permission to practice medicine in any of the compact states.

Kevin Bohnenblust, executive director of the Wyoming State Board of Medicine, helped design the multi-state system and said the compact would be especially useful for bringing specialists from a big city to a rural area with a small number of patients.

"They might only have three or four patients, but their services would be critical," he said. "What we're hoping is that, where there are underserved areas, it will give added flexibility."

Details of the compact were unveiled this month, and Bohnenblust said it's already receiving interest from across the nation.

Under the compact, a doctor could pay a fee and go through a fairly simple process to get an additional license. Bohnenblust said that's much simpler than getting separate licenses to practice in multiple states, although he said doctors still would have that option. If a license under the compact was suspended in one state, he said, it would be suspended in all of them. Bohnenblust said the compact is designed to make things such as telemedicine easier to do.

"We're all getting more comfortable with doing things like Skyping and FaceTime," he said. "As patients become more comfortable with it, and as physicians and other health-care professionals become more comfortable, you'll see more and more care driven that way."

Experts say the shortage of doctors could grow as more people get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.