They’re working and should be made permanent
In a seven-month period in 2020, Wisconsin approved licenses for 556 out-of-state health care professionals. These doctors, nurses, physician assistants and others served Wisconsin patients through telehealth, a form of virtual health care that has exploded in popularity and usage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through separate emergency orders, Gov. Tony Evers allowed for qualified health care providers licensed in other states to serve Wisconsinites through telehealth without obtaining a Wisconsin license. This means providers licensed throughout the country could administer health care through audio or video communication to Badger State residents without either party having to leave their office or home.
The Badger Institute was interested in determining how the policies contained in the emergency orders were working in practice and submitted an open re- cords request to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) for information on all out-of-state telehealth providers who practiced in Wisconsin from March 27 to Oct. 31.
The results were impressive and suggest that the policy should be made permanent. None of the 556 applications received by DSPS was denied for malpractice or disciplinary issues.
As Wisconsin continues to battle the COVID-19 crisis, we must ensure that the state has a robust and qualified health care workforce. Allowing out-of-state providers to more easily serve patients in Wisconsin through telehealth is a common-sense and, as indicated by the data, proven way of bolstering our work-force and ensuring that patients can safely receive quality care.
The increased practice of telehealth visits likely will continue beyond the pandemic — and so should this now-temporary policy. Wisconsin should permanently allow qualified out-of-state health care providers to serve patients through telehealth and should also adopt full licensure recognition for all licensed professions. An occupational license should not be a barrier for qualified professionals looking to practice and serve in Wisconsin — whether in-person or virtually.