Health Care Clinics at Church
With the increasing cost of health care, some ministries are choosing to open on-site clinics that provide affordable nursing services, medical, dental, or vision care. Providing medical services can bring a much-needed resource to your community.
Before opening a health care ministry at your church, be sure to consider the legal and ethical issues involved.
State licensing and regulations for operating a health care clinic vary from state to state. In addition to licensing requirements, you may also have to meet specific architecture, zoning, and building code requirements. Consult with a local attorney specializing in health care law for help. The National Institute of Building Sciences explains some of the issues in more detail.
Physicians, nurses, and other health care providers can serve as employees, volunteers, or independent contractors at your clinic. Carefully screen all workers, verify that they have the required licenses and credentials, and have them sign an agreement that outlines the details of the services they provide. Brotherhood Mutual offers several background screening resources, including a checklist to help you work through the screening process.
Risk Management Plan
Developing a comprehensive written risk management plan for your health care clinic can help you manage risks and promote patient safety, according to industry best practices. Here’s an article to get you started.
Reimbursement for Services
Nonprofit medical clinics may provide free health care services or paid services on a sliding scale depending on the patient’s financial capabilities. Clinics should develop policies and procedures for medical service payment by individuals, insurers, and federal and state government sources.
Consult with a tax professional and local attorney to make sure you address all accounting and legal issues associated with charging individuals for medical care.
Confidentiality of Information and Recordkeeping
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other relevant federal and state medical information privacy laws require that certain health care providers and other entities keep medical information confidential. Store medical records in a secure location, and make sure all employees, volunteers, and independent contractors understand relevant medical information privacy and data security laws.
Patients and people authorized to act on a patient’s behalf must be fully informed of medical procedures, according to all relevant legal and ethical guidelines. The American Medical Association explains the importance of communicating this information to individuals in your care.
Be sure to follow manufacturer guidelines for all equipment your ministry uses for health and wellness programming. Check all equipment routinely to assure that its safe and in working order. Properly train all workers who use specific equipment to avoid injury or equipment malfunction. If you haven’t already done so, consider purchasing an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). A well-maintained defibrillator is one of the most important pieces of medical equipment your ministry can have.
Don’t Forget Insurance
If your ministry provides a full range of medical services, writes prescriptions, or dispenses prescription medication, talk to your insurance agent about purchasing a medical malpractice insurance policy that is separate from your ministry’s standard liability policy.
Medical staff that serves your ministry as employees or volunteers under the control of the faith-based clinic should receive coverage under the ministry organization’s policy. If independent contractors provide medical care, require them to maintain professional liability insurance policies and to name your ministry as an additional insured on their policies.
Contact your insurance agent to discuss available coverage options and requirements.
For more information about starting a heath care clinic at your ministry, check out the following resources.