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Physician License Verification Challenges During COVID-19

November 25, 2020

With COVID-19 case counts on the rise, some states’ demand for healthcare resources is at or above capacity. Many hospitals need to hire new healthcare workers quickly. To deal with this crisis, states with increased demand have lifted medical license verification restrictions so that healthcare workers from other states can bypass physician license verification requirements which would normally take several months to process. This emergency response allows more healthcare professionals to practice and increases patient access to healthcare.

The Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner Act

Recognizing that lengthy physician license verifications may not be practical or possible in a public health emergency, The Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner Act (UEVHPA) allows practitioners from another state to enter the state that has declared an emergency and provide medical services as long as they are licensed in their state of origin.

The UEVHPA was created in 2006 by the Uniform Law Commission. In order to participate, states must maintain a registry where practitioners must register before or during the disaster. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed the model legislation, but the American College of Surgeons (ACS) State Affairs is working with other states to adopt UEVHPA legislation in all 50 states.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have used UEVHPA to permit volunteers from other states to assist with healthcare. Bypassing the physician license verification process gives patients additional access to healthcare services in states where resources are stretched thin.

The Nursing Licensure Compact

The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) is similar to the UEVHPA in that practitioners may circumvent medical license verification requirements across state lines, but it applies specifically to nurses.

The NLC was originally developed in 2000, but in 2018, the new Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) was implemented. The eNLC included additional standards for nursing that were not part of the original compact.

Unlike the UEVHPA, the eNLC doesn’t apply only to emergency situations. Nurses who receive their licenses in an eNLC state may practice in any other eNLC state. Although many states have adopted the eNLC model, several have not. As of August 2020, 34 states are part of the eNLC, and several others have pending legislation.

Increased Access to Healthcare During COVID-19

Measures like the UEVHPA and eNLC that bypass typical medical license verification requirements make it easier for healthcare practitioners to practice in other states, especially during emergencies like COVID-19. This paves the way for resource-stretched states to admit medical volunteers from other states through both in-person and telemedicine practice, increasing healthcare access for patients.

Increased access to healthcare is vital to patients’ health and well-being, especially during COVID-19; however, relaxed physician license verification requirements can also expose patients to increased risk. When healthcare entities do not perform physician license verification for their practitioners, they run the risk of unknowingly allowing excluded physicians and nurses with expired or revoked licenses to treat patients.

Under normal circumstances, healthcare entities that fail to perform physician license verification as required can be held responsible for hiring excluded practitioners. Penalties for such negligence can include refusal of reimbursement for services, civil monetary penalties, and lawsuits.

Patient Safety is the First Priority

In an emergency situation, the American Medical Association recommends automatic liability immunity protection for emergency care practitioners. This recommendation, however, does not guarantee immunity, and courts may not all interpret legal issues in emergency care the same way. Of course, immunity laws are written to protect patients, so if providers neglect medical license verification during COVID-19, patients may still be at risk even if practitioners are legally protected.

That’s where Verisys can help. To protect your patients from harm and your healthcare entity from liability, the Verisys product, VLSS (Verified License Search and Status), actively tracks medical licensing regulations and requirements across all U.S. states and territories. Verisys screens all licensed providers across every taxonomy in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. Doing this gives healthcare entities a current picture of the license status as well as the license history from each place a provider has lived and worked.

With VLSS, licenses are continuously monitored to notify you of any changes to license status in real-time. There are often delays in disciplinary reports which leaves your organization at risk of allowing disciplined providers to continue to treat patients. This real-time data streamlines the physician license verification process, which saves you time during an emergency such as COVID-19 while protecting your patients and your organization from potential risks, penalties, and fines.

Juliette Willard Written by Juliette Willard
Healthcare Communications Specialist
Being creative is my passion! Writer. Painter. Problem Solver. Optimist.
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