Keys to Managing Risk with Free Clinic Healthcare Volunteers

Mar 22, 2021 | Compliance, Credentialing, Data Quality, GRC, Hugh's Credentialing Digest, License Verification, Network Management, Provider Management, Verification

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Important Tips for Effective Background Screening, Credentials Verification, and Continuous Monitoring of Healthcare Volunteers to Avoid Harm to Patients and Legal Exposure

In this blog, Hugh addresses the challenges that face free clinics when recruiting volunteers. Efforts to meet the demand of staffing numerous free medical clinics should not be done at the expense of proper background screening, verification of credentials, and license status. Lack of proper credentialing can pose major risks to the already vulnerable individuals these clinics serve. Certainty of training, experience, certifications, and license type ensure the safety of the public and are the keystones to quality care with good outcomes.

The Health Center Program (HRSA) published a list of FAQs about managing free medical clinics with regard to the Federal Tort Claims Act mentioned later in this blog, as well as details about credentialing and privileging requirements.

Even with the implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there are numerous individuals who still need the services of Free Healthcare Clinics to meet their medical needs. It is the role of the clinic’s medical director to ensure standards of care and optimize communication among staff and volunteer members. Implementing opportunities for continuing education and training in safety is also key to a clinic’s success.

Coverage under The Free Clinic Federal Tort Claims Act Program allows money to be allocated to quality healthcare services and improvements instead of malpractice coverage. To qualify for coverage under the FTCA, clinics must not only provide credentialing and privileging systems, but also quality improvement and quality assurance programs, disclosure of medical malpractice claims, and annual data reporting. Under FCTA, re-credentialing and re-privileging must occur every two years to maintain standard care and coverage. Hugh offers insights on credentialing and upholding the VIM (Volunteers in Medicine) model.

The following is contributed by Hugh Greeley, author of Hugh’s Credentialing Digest

Volunteer Healthcare Practitioners are Essential to Free Clinics

Recently I had the honor of working with representatives of the 100+ Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) free clinics that dot the landscape. VIM assists hospitals and communities in establishing free clinics for the uninsured, each staffed by volunteer healthcare practitioners. There is no charge for the services provided by VIM. As you might expect, these volunteer practitioners must go through a credentialing process similar to that required in hospitals.

Where Medical Credentialing meets Volunteer Application Fatigue

Free clinics may avail themselves of the protection from malpractice suits afforded under the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, to do so requires that they have an effective credentialing program. The dilemma is that prospective volunteers often are fed up with the bureaucracy of applications and credentialing policies. Free clinics need volunteers far more than volunteers need the clinics. Quite clearly, free clinics need a different credentialing paradigm in order to effectively and efficiently “on board” prospective volunteers.

On one hand, they must establish that a volunteer is qualified and competent; on the other hand, they do not want to have to require the volunteer to complete a standard 4-page application. Add to this the fact that most free clinics do not have a qualified credentials expert [such as a medical staff services professional (MSP) or credentials committee chair] on their staff. This makes for a complicated compliance landscape.

Upholding Volunteer Integrity

The Volunteers in Medicine Clinic (VIM) has been helping build and support free primary care clinics since 1994. The clinics are powered by community volunteers comprised of retired and practicing medical and community volunteers who are committed to providing basic healthcare to the 27 million Americans who lack access to healthcare services. In 2018, VIM expanded to include already established clinics, referred to as expansion sites. With this expansion, comes the added necessity for screening volunteers to uphold the VIM model.

Verisys’ turnkey, provider exclusion screening, license and certification verification, and provider credentialing solutions deliver quality data, automation, and digital credentialing records to support the challenges of managing the many moving parts of a free clinic.

Hugh Greeley Written by Hugh Greeley
Credentialing and Healthcare Industry Expert
HG Healthcare Consultant