If you are running a business in the healthcare industry, there are a number of documents and other legal obligations you should be familiar with. 

Whether you’re offering professional healthcare services remotely or in person, a Telehealth Service Agreement or a Healthcare Professional Service Agreement are important contracts to have in place. 

They form the basis of your relationships with your clients and protect you from the significant risks involved in offering healthcare services, regardless of how these services are delivered.

As you might know, healthcare professionals are held to a higher standard when it comes to the delivery of their services. This is mainly because of the level of skill and expertise that is required for certain industries. So, it’s essential that their key documents reflect these standards. 

Read on to learn more about what is required in a Professional Services Agreement for healthcare service providers. 

What Is A Service Agreement?

Generally speaking, a Service Agreement is a contract that sets out the terms and conditions between you and the clients receiving your services. Every business that provides services to clients should employ such an agreement so that both parties are clear on duties and expectations. 

Such an agreement will offer a greater level of protection for your business. A Service Agreement clarifies the exact scope of the services your business offers to help ensure there are no misunderstandings with clients. 

As an additional benefit of this clarification, the chances of costly legal disputes arising later down the track are reduced due to clearly outlined expectations. 

In regards to the healthcare industry, a Service Agreement will typically set out provisions to limit your liability, secure your payments and will include other important protections specific to your business and the type of healthcare services it provides. 

A Service Agreement should also outline the fees to be charged, the key dates and deadlines, and the services and deliverables you are providing to a client. However, as is outlined in the following section, whilst it is a good idea to have a Service Agreement in place, a more bespoke drafted Professional Service Agreement specific to the healthcare services you provide is much better.

As mentioned above, Service Agreements will typically cover:

  • Fees (including payment security)
  • The scope of services
  • Limitation of liability
  • Key dates and deadlines

I’m A Healthcare Provider – Do I Need A Professional Services Agreement?

A Professional Services Agreement is a contract designed to manage the expectations of clients and protect businesses from disputes. It is a contract that legally binds the commercial relationship between the clients and the business. 

Professional Services Agreements will usually cover:

  • The scope of the services being provided and any deliverables
  • Payment
  • Deadlines 
  • Duties of the customer
  • Obligations of the business 
  • Warranties
  • Liabilities
  • Confidentiality 
  • Owners of any intellectual property 
  • Dispute resolution methods
  • The process regarding events occurring out of the control of both parties 
  • Ending the contract

In contrast to the aforementioned Service Agreement, a Professional Services Agreement is suited where the services being provided need more specific details in the agreement. A Professional Services Agreement is useful where a certain degree of skill and expertise is present in the services provided. It may also include some further information about licencing requirements. 

For instance, for specialised services like website design or software engineering, a Professional Services Agreement can be useful to help clients understand the scope and level of the services being provided. 

Such understanding might not be necessary for services like product delivery. As is made clear by the list of things usually covered in a Professional Service Agreement, they are substantially more detailed and in depth than typical Service Agreements.

For healthcare providers, Professional Service Agreements are extremely useful given the sensitive nature of the work being performed, and the additional emphasis on confidentiality. 

Sprintlaw provides specialised drafting of Health Service Provider Agreements for all sorts of healthcare professionals including doctors, allied health providers, mental health service providers, aged and disability care providers and more. 

For NDIS related healthcare providers, our NDIS Service Agreements are better suited to meeting the specific requirements of your business. 

How Do Service Agreements Work For Telehealth?

With concerns around COVID and face-to-face interactions not completely subsiding, understanding what is needed for a successful telehealth business is important. 

Whether you are thinking of moving completely online, or adding an online offering to your face to face business, the legal ramifications of such a switch should be considered. 

A good first step to consider is the implementation of a Telehealth Service Agreement. Although remote provision of healthcare is a relatively new area, this agreement sets out the terms and conditions between you and the clients receiving your services.

This protects your business explicitly through client requirements and terms and conditions, but also implicitly by setting clear expectations of what a client can expect to receive. 

Telehealth Service Agreements should be drafted by a legal professional given the sensitive nature of health information. When such information is being handled on an online platform, this carries a slightly higher level of risk, so your documents should be well-equipped to mitigate these risks. 

A Telehealth Service Agreement will typically:

  • Set out your responsibilities (what you will and won’t do)
  • Secure your payment (including online payment)
  • Limit your liability to your online clients 

I’ve Created A Healthcare App – What Agreement Do I Need?

Healthcare apps not only need a Service Agreement, but well drafted terms and conditions that set out what customers agree to do, or refrain from doing in order to use your service.

Such terms and conditions might include:

  • Payment terms
  • Dispute procedure
  • Personal information and confidentiality
  • Limitation of liability

As healthcare is potentially more risky than other areas in which apps are used, it is a good idea to disclose all the relevant details and risks associated with the services you are providing. For instance, it is important to make clear the limited liability of your application.

The app ‘Headspace’ provides a good example of this limitation. 

Though marketed as a healthcare app assisting with mindfulness and mental wellbeing, the terms and conditions of Headspace provide that “to the fullest extent permitted by law, we make no representation or warranties about the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the advice, other materials and information published as part of the products.”’

This statement essentially limits liability for everything contained within it. 

However, this sort of limitation should be realistic and tailored to the specific app and the services it provides. Headspace is not involved in providing actual cognitive-behavioural therapy. A more cautionary example is the app ‘Betterhelp’, which is an online portal that provides direct-to-consumer access to mental health services. 

That app originally contained terms and conditions stating that the user was responsible for ensuring that the therapist treating them was actually licensed, and Betterhelp bore no liability for this verification. 

This can be seen as an inadequate limitation of responsibility and liability and demonstrates that such limitations need to be tailored for what your app provides. An app providing direct access to doctors might limit liability for the accuracy of the advice. However, limiting liability for the credentials of the doctors would not be suitable. 

For further information about what terms and conditions are appropriate for your app, Sprintlaw’s experienced team can help you decide what should be included and perhaps more importantly, what should not be.  

Do I Need A Privacy Policy?

On top of the Service Agreement most suited for your business, health service providers will need a Health Service Provider Privacy Policy.

Generally speaking, a Privacy Policy is a document that details the way in which your business handles personal information that is given to each person that you collect personal information from. It is typically attached to, or collated with, the terms and conditions of your business.

As a health service provider, you’ll be collecting ‘health information’, which is considered “sensitive information” by the Privacy Act 1988. Therefore, additional regulations will apply to your business. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a Health Service Provider Privacy Policy in place that is consistent with the Australian Privacy Principles.

Privacy policies are required by law if you fall within the criteria prescribed under the Privacy Act. As a health service provider, you will likely be collecting sensitive information from your clients that needs to be used and stored in compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles. 

This requirement applies regardless of your annual turnover. Thus, you must have a privacy policy which sets out what personal information you collect, and how that information will be used by you and/or disclosed to third parties.

Key Takeaways

Healthcare is not a simple industry at the best of times. With increasing numbers of healthcare providers moving into the online space, understanding the ramifications and risks of this move is crucial. 

Sprintlaw has vast experience and expertise in assisting those in healthcare make this transition and can ease this transition for your business. Regardless of the sort of healthcare you provide, we can also assist you in creating the contracts and documents needed to protect your business.

If you have any questions about this area, reach out to us at team@sprintlaw.com.au or contact us on 1800 730 617 for an obligation-free chat.

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