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Doctors, patients could be helped by licensing changes

Licensing agents from Midwestern states are considering a change that would benefit doctors who practice near state borders, and also patients who need care in remote areas.

Licensing agents from Midwestern states are considering a change that would benefit doctors who practice near state borders, and also patients who need care in remote areas.

Efforts to simplify a doctor's ability to practice across state lines are not new, but they've been hampered by tension. Regulators want patients to have access to doctors, but at the same time they have to protect patients against bad doctors. In addition, some doctors don't want competition from colleagues in other states.

A middle ground is being sought in the Midwest. Doctors would still have to be licensed in nine states, including Wisconsin, but could legally practice elsewhere.

Wisconsin Regulation and Licensing Secretary Celia Jackson says it would simplify cross-border care and might improve access to remote areas.

"As we face situations with people in rural communities who have a lot more difficulty getting to the doctor's office and seeing their physician, this whole notion of telemedicine becomes more attractive when we're facing gasoline prices of $3 and higher," she says.

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Wisconsin and Minnesota are currently involved in a pilot project that allows doctors along the border in Minnesota to hold office hours in Wisconsin.

Study of the interstate licensing agreement being is funded through a two-year, federal grant worth nearly $500,000.

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