Charity Care: Medical Professionals and Volunteer Liability
Dear Valued Physician Client:
As a medical professional, you may have volunteered your clinical skills at a community “free clinic,” athletic setting, civic event or for a charitable organization. While it is a noble deed to offer your time and talent, there are valid concerns about liability. These concerns do not need to be an obstacle to volunteering if you do your research and implement common sense risk management.
Consider the following in preparation for volunteering:
- Check with your Gallagher Healthcare representative or your medical professional liability carrier about malpractice coverage protection for volunteer and charity care.
- Protections are likely offered in your state such as Charitable Immunity, Legislation and Good Samaritan laws along with the Volunteer Protection Act. Protections like these make it difficult for a physician or other medical professional volunteer to be sued, but they may not guarantee immunity.¹
- Consult a healthcare attorney who knows about your state’s volunteer protection laws.
Incorporate risk management safeguards when you do volunteer:
- Communicate clearly any instructions for treatment plans such as medications, diagnostics and/or referrals.
- Thoroughly and accurately document in the medical record, paying special attention to the patient’s medical history.
- Stay within your scope of practice.
- Refer to another clinician when appropriate.
- If you will be following up on tests you order, have an efficient tracking system in place.
Keep in Mind the Benefits of Medical Volunteering²
- Helps others in your community or abroad
- May help prevent burnout as it connects you with others
- Makes one feel more “valued” and recharges your batteries
- Provides positive marketing for a clinician who is new to the community
Just as in your medical practice, implementing effective risk management strategies when providing volunteer healthcare will help to protect you and the patients you treat.
¹ ASTHO Volunteer Protection Acts and Good Samaritan Laws Emergency Volunteer Tool Kit http://www.astho.org/Programs/Preparedness/Public-Health-Emergency-Law/Emergency-Volunteer-Toolkit/Volunteer- Protection-Acts-andGood-Samaritan-Laws-Fact-Sheet/
² The benefits of physician volunteering, Medical Economics website, July 25, 2017, https://www.medicaleconomics.com/burnout/volunteering-benefits-and-risks-physicians
³ Medical Malpractice and Preparticipation Sports Physicals, TheDoctorsCompany website, August 2015, https://www.thedoctors.com/articles/medical-malpractice-and-preparticipation-sports-physicals/
⁴ The Preparticipation Sports Evaluation, American Family Physician website, September 2015 Issue, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0901/p371.html