For an organization interested in developing a clinic, the first and most important step is the identification and inspiration of key leaders who will drive the clinic development effort. Typically, these are individuals with dedication and leadership skills who become passionately engaged in organizing and leading a planning team responsible for bringing the clinic into existence. In the case of churches the involvement of capable, effective volunteer leaders insures that this effort is an extension of the church’s ministry without adding to the workload of the organization’s staff.
ECHO has identified four key leadership roles required for a successful clinic project.
Visionary Leader. Each project has an initial spokesperson – the individual who first articulated the vision of the project. If the genesis of a project is traced to its root, the Visionary Leader is often the individual with which it all began. This individual typically is the original “voice” of the project. From the beginning, this individual galvanizes support from the congregation and/or from the community, often individually recruiting members to the Planning Team.
The Visionary Leader galvanizes the community whether one to one, to small groups or to any media outlets who may have an interest at these early stages. Additionally, the Visionary Leader translates the vision to others in the community who are needed for time, talent, and treasure of all sorts, including financial. The “spokesperson” for a project, whether the Visionary Leader or not, should be consistent throughout the project unless otherwise delegated.
During the project’s developmental process, the Visionary Leader is often the individual who frames the “big picture” as individual assignments are carried out within the working dynamic of the Planning Team/Board. This individual may serve as the Chairperson of the Planning Team or Chairman of the first Board of Directors.
Medical Champion. Each project should identify the medical champion as the individual who will, assisted by other team members, develop the design and the structure of medical services to be offered by the clinic. This individual should ideally be a licensed medical professional – physician, independent practitioner, nurse, etc – to assure credibility for the emerging clinic. The Medical Champion, along with the Project Leader/Executive Director, is responsible for outreach into the surrounding medical community to build the necessary support for volunteers, resources and other specific support from local medical professionals or institutions. As such this individual must share the vision for the project and be able and willing to articulate this vision to a variety of professional audiences.
In many projects, the Medical Champion assumes the role of Medical Director once the project becomes operational.
Planning Team Leader. Every project must have a “go to” person – the individual who gets things done. The Planning Team Leader makes the “to-do” lists and makes certain the items are completed. The Planning Team Leader generally delegates well and holds individuals and the planning team accountable. He/she can maintain both long and short-term goals with an eye on how all contributes to the big picture – the opening of the clinic. The Planning Team Leader is the link between the various groups who are focused on their individual tasks or agendas. This role requires an on-going commitment of significant time to the clinic project. This individual often serves as the primary contact with the ECHO Consultant. An effective Planning Team Leader is critical to the timely success of the project.
Data Champion. Every project should designate one individual to lead the effort to collect and measure data that will inform the organizations impact on the patients they are serving. It is no longer enough to be able to report the number of patient visits the clinic recorded. The clinic must be able to demonstrate the improved health status of its patients. To do this effectively, the clinic will need to develop a system to record and report data. Most clinics will chose to utilize an Electronic Health Record and clinic management software. The Data Champion will be responsible for the development and implementation of this system and the reporting of data to the clinics stakeholders.
These leadership roles are each integral to the success of the clinic. While each role has distinguishing characteristics, three individuals do not necessarily fill the roles. In many instances a single individual may fill two of the roles. In rare instances, a single individual may fill all three. There is no single formula that is ideal; however, each role requires a separate commitment of time to effectively carry out the functions. Therefore, if an individual is to play more than one role effectively, time must be available in order to do so.
Any healthy, sustainable enterprise requires significant planning. A critical mass of the right people, facilities, systems, and resources for the target audience must all be in place prior to launch. ECHO can help your organization with planning and implementation so that within 12 to 18 months the clinic can open its doors and doctors can begin seeing patients.
During that planning phase, ECHO will provide a consultant and resources to work with your planning team to insure that a solid foundation is laid for a successful launch. This consultant will be provided at ECHO’s expense.
Many projects start small, with clinics only meeting a couple of times a month. The availability of volunteers, facilities, and the patient community all contribute to determining the size of the clinic. As more needs are identified, more volunteers are recruited, and more people learn about the clinic and join in to help, the clinic can grow. Also clinics that intend to be “gap fillers” for the life of the clinic and those who aspire to become “medical homes” need to consider those aspects in their initial planning.
One of the earliest activities is assessing your community’s physical and volunteer resources, as well as the demographics of your target patient population. This will help determine what type of clinic will best suit your capabilities and patients. Will your clinic have its own location? When and for how long will your clinic be open? What types of medical care will you provide? How will your clinic integrate with other healthcare providers and resources in the community and with the broader faith community These are all questions that will be answered in the planning process for your clinic.
Frankly, there are a myriad of issues that face an organization when it decides to utilize a healthcare clinic to reach out and serve the community. Licensing and liability issues, staffing and volunteer recruitment, networking and acquiring proper equipment and supplies are all challenges that must be faced before the first patient is treated. ECHO is devoted to helping you find the solutions for these concerns and more.
For an initial assessment of your organization’s readiness to engage in this rewarding but challenging task, please complete the Interest Questionnaire.