For many people, telehealth might seem like the kind of thing that would disproportionately benefit patients in rural areas–small-town patients who would otherwise have to drive long distances in order to visit a specialty provider, for example.
But telehealth has equal potential when it comes to addressing health care disparities among patients living in underserved urban communities–and (as first reported in the Washington Business Journal) a new bill introduced in the Washington, D.C. City Council is seeking to do just that for the city’s residents.
Introduced by Council Member (and former District mayor) Vincent Gray, a Democrat who represents the city’s Ward 7, the legislation would provide for D.C.’s membership in the Federation of State Medical Boards’ (FSMB) Interstate Physician Licensure Compact, which allows providers in member states to practice medicine (including telehealth) across state lines. If the legislation were approved, the nation’s capital would join 17 states that are already Compact members, and providers in member states could provide quality care at a distance to District residents.
Per the Washington Business Journal, the D.C. Medical Society has already voiced support for joining the FSMB compact; on the national level, organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) have endorsed the compact.
For his part, Gray, whose Council district is home to a number of high-need neighborhoods, the expanded use of telemedicine makes sense when it comes to increasing access to quality care. “The exact same scenarios that make telehealth necessary in rural communities occur in urban ones as well, possibly even more,” he told Washington Business Journal, highlighting the distance many residents are forced to travel to reach health care facilities and specialty providers. Should the legislation pass, it could play a significant role in decreasing disparities in the capital.