Gov. Wolf on Wednesday signed legislation making Pennsylvania part of an interstate pact intended to streamline physician licensing, improve health-care access, and expand telemedicine, according to his spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.

Under the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, doctors get licensed in their home state, which does the usual credential and background checks. Then they can select states in the compact for licenses that are essentially automatic.

Pennsylvania is the 18th state to join the compact, which evolved from a proposal issued three years ago by the nonprofit Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents all physician licensing boards in the United States. The federation and many federal agencies have been pushing for years to streamline the medical licensing system, which critics say is outmoded and overly bureaucratic and hampers efforts to relieve physician shortages.

State Rep. Jesse Topper (R., Bedford), who introduced the Pennsylvania bill a year ago, said in an email that he was "thrilled" by its enactment.

"I believe signing on to this compact will help make quality health-care more accessible and affordable, especially in underserved areas," he emailed. "This bill is also important as tele-medicine is expanded around the country."

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which supported the legislation, issued a statement from president and CEO Andy Carter: "In the world of apps and telehealth, the interstate compact allows qualified, licensed physicians to follow this new technology across state lines. Equally important, as many rural areas of Pennsylvania face physician shortages, is the ability for doctors to move back and forth across state borders."

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, which represents doctors, was on the fence about the bill, seeing both potential advantages and pitfalls.

A few states that have considered joining the compact decided not to pursue the necessary legislation. The Ohio Medical Board, for example, cited concerns about "financial issues, legal issues ... additional bureaucracy and lack of operational clarity."

The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission, which administers the initiative, has set a target goal of January 2017 for qualified physicians to seek licensure in multiple states using the compact's expedited licensure process.