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More than 230 national organizations have signed a letter urging the 50 U.S. state governors to “maintain and expand” flexibility with licensure requirements during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate access taking care.

During the pandemic, governors used the emergency authority to waive certain state licensing requirements, giving healthcare providers greater flexibility to treat patients across state lines. These licensing flexibilities have allowed better access to care, especially for the many patients using telehealth to meet with specialists who reside in another state.

“Improving access to telehealth services during the pandemic has been a lifeline for many members of the rare disease community,” said Peter Saltonstall, president and CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders ( NORTH). in a press release.

“A 2020 NORD survey found that nearly 40% of rare disease patients travel more than 60 miles for their medical care, meaning robust access to telehealth, including access to providers through state borders, is essential, ”added Saltonstall.

In recent months, however, many states have allowed these licensing flexibilities to expire with the end of COVID-19 public health emergency declarations. As a result, patients who relied on telehealth options across state borders may have to cancel their appointments or go in person, with the risk that entails, the letter said.

“Many of these patients have relied on telehealth throughout the pandemic to see their specialists who reside in another state, made possible by the flexibilities in licensure enacted at the start of the pandemic, so as not to risk to be exposed to the virus and to maintain continuity of care, “it reads.

The letter encourages state governors to restore flexibilities to expired licenses to practice or implement new flexibilities to better meet the needs of patients throughout the pandemic.

“NORD has worked to ensure that state licensing flexibilities do not expire, so rare disease patients can continue to have access to ongoing and necessary patient care as long as the threat of COVID-19 remains “said Saltonstall.

NORD, the Alliance for Connected Care and the ALS Association convened the letter. Other signatories include patient advocacy organizations, hospitals and healthcare systems, academic medical centers, institutes of higher education, and digital health companies.

“Patients and their families seek care across states for many reasons, and the licensing flexibilities put in place throughout the pandemic have been critical in expanding patients’ access to care,” improve care coordination and continuity of care, and address workforce shortages, ”said Krista Drobac, executive director of the Alliance for Connected Care.

“State governors must act to ensure that these flexibilities are maintained and consider solutions to meet the continuing needs of patients both during the pandemic and into the future,” Drobac concluded.