Based on some networking accomplished at HIMSS, I’m about to begin work with a new client. The nature of the work requires me to have a medical license in their state, so I jumped right in Friday morning to get the process rolling. The licensure process can vary from state to state and I haven’t completed an application in years, so I wanted to get going quickly.

The first place I visited was the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact website to see if that might be a pathway to speed things along. When the Compact was introduced several years ago, it was touted as a way to increase delivery of care to underserved areas as well as to better enable telemedicine.

Unfortunately, the state where I primarily practice doesn’t participate in the Compact, nor do any of the states where I’m secondarily licensed, so that was a bust. Even if it had panned out, there is a $700 application cost plus the cost of the license in the target state. I have the luxury of being able to pass this on to my client since it’s their requirement, but that fee is far from pocket change.

I then investigated licensure directly with the state and found that they have an online portal. After creating an application, I learned that if I’m licensed in a state with similar requirements, they have an attestation pathway, where it should be easier to credential than if I were applying from scratch. This state borders my own and I have many colleagues that practice across state lines, so I thought it might be fairly easy.

Unlike a paper application, the online application directs the user through a rigid pathway of data-gathering. You can’t even see what the subsequent requirements are until you supply the preliminary data, which wasn’t close at hand. I found an instruction sheet PDF through an online search, but it had an older date on it and I wasn’t sure whether it was still relevant. Although I was sitting with copies of all my board certification information, medical school and college diplomas, and more, I became hung up because I couldn’t supply the date of my high school graduation or the date that enrolled in college.

I pawed through some boxes in my basement for a bit to see if I could come up with the high school diploma, but that wasn’t fruitful. I visited my high school website to see if they had an online request form. They don’t, but I was able to download a paper form to mail or scan back, which allows them to send me an unofficial transcript by email.

In my subterranean digging, I found my final college transcript, but of course it didn’t have the enrollment date on there, so I’ll be requesting that from my undergraduate institution as well. The application also requires my dates of attendance at medical school, but I was able to figure that out from my first tuition bill, which I must have saved as a memento.

I have no idea what kind of information they will want from residency. Probably similar information, and it should be a little easier to find because it’s more recent. Still, it will require either some digging or sleuthing to get it done and I’ll be in a state of curiosity until the rest of the application is revealed to me.

The bottom line though is that this “by attestation” pathway seems about as complicated as trying to apply for a license from scratch, minus having to submit USMLE scores. (For the first-time applicant, they have a nice current instruction sheet that spells out everything you need to apply.)  Fortunately, when I packed up my diplomas and certificates in leaving my corner office at Big Health System, I had scanned all those documents so that information is at least at my fingertips. Hopefully they won’t want anything too unusual.

I will have to travel to the state in question and be fingerprinted by their state police organization. I’m not sure why I can’t be fingerprinted by my own state police and submit that, but I’ll be sure to factor that travel into the contract for my new client.

For a physician who has been in practice the better part of two decades, certified by two different medical boards (one of them multiple times), and possessing multiple unrestricted licenses to practice medicine, this process seems a little cumbersome. I’m not sure why it’s relevant to document what date I began high school in order to be licensed to practice medicine. But it is what it is, and if you want to practice in another state, you have to play their game (and pay their fee, which in this case is more than $700 plus a state controlled substance license, and I haven’t even started that process yet). Once you are granted the license, you have to pay to keep it up even if you’re not sure you’re going to continue to do it because it is such a cumbersome process to be re-licensed.

It seemed like the Interstate Compact was the answer to all of this, but the reality is that only 22 states participate, leaving the rest of us in the cold and completing lots and lots of forms if we want to change where we practice. Several other states have passed legislation and the implementation is delayed and other states have introduced legislation. But it looks like those of us in the other 22 states are stuck with the traditional process. I’d be interested to hear from physicians who practice telemedicine or from those who practice as locum tenens in multiple states – are there any secrets, tips, or tricks to make this easier? Certainly there has to be a better way.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching my email for that high school transcript and my postal mailbox for the college information. At least I can use the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery to see what is headed my way when I’m out traveling. Nothing says road warrior like stalking your postal mail from the other side of the country.

Have secrets for multistate licensure? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.