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The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

One of the many powers reserved to the states in our system of government is the power to license and supervise the practice of the professions, including the practice of medicine. Historically, each state has set its own requirements for physicians to obtain a license to practice medicine within its borders. These requirements usually include graduation from an accredited medical school; completion of post-graduate residency or internship training in an accredited hospital training program; passing a licensing examination; completion of continuing medical education credits; and so on. The state may also investigate whether a physician applicant for a medical license has any criminal convictions, any past or pending disciplinary actions, any mental or physical impairment, or whether the applicant has caused any harm to patients. 

This licensure process is regarded as a critical police power of the state that is intended to protect the health and safety of any patient who will receive medical treatment from the physician. Regulation of the practice of medicine in New York can be traced as far back as 1684, when it was a British colony. New York’s process for licensing physicians has traditionally been comprehensive and rigorous.

The continuing trend toward medical specialization, the developments in telecommunications and telemedicine, the proliferating costs of health care services, the consolidation of hospitals and health care providers into large multistate systems, and the need to increase access to medical services in underserved and rural areas, among other factors, are driving the need for more and more physicians to be licensed in multiple states. Some states offer relatively simple reciprocity to physicians already licensed in another state. Others have more complex and time consuming license requirements.

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