A new year brings an opportunity for a fresh perspective on organizational procedures, policies and mission. As you know, evaluating these elements should not be taken lightly. It is a crucial part of remaining effective as a faith-based healthcare provider, not only in the community but within the organization itself. Here are three primary trends in today’s healthcare landscape to consider this year when making plans for 2016: new measurements of mission integration, the growth of secular partnerships, and the increased presence of government interference.
1. New Measurements of Mission Integration
Traditionally, faith-based healthcare organizations have measured the impact of their mission in the community by the estimated value of the charity care they provide — the amount of services they provide at minimal or no charge for those in need. However, this is not a comprehensive evaluation of missional influence in the community. It does not take into account whether or not the organization is truly making a difference in a broader sense — whether or not the collective faith of leadership and employees is bringing change in the area they serve.
To evaluate this impact more holistically, some faith-based leaders are considering more than just the volume or value of services provided. They are assessing the community itself. Have obesity levels decreased? Are there fewer teen pregnancies? Are the residents in the area living healthier lives? If not, how can the organization work to educate, equip and support them? Scripture tells us our “bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), so our ministry mission can certainly include attempts to boost overall community health.
How can the organization go even further? Potential deeper measures of assessment could include the percentage of the community equating personal health to spiritual development or the number of community members volunteering and engaging in healthcare ministry activities. Taking into consideration how the organization is making a tangible difference in the community is crucial to understanding how best to approach ministry in the future. If these qualities are never evaluated, faith-based providers run the risk of becoming virtually indistinct from their secular counterparts.
2. Secular Partnerships and Alliances
With changing national healthcare regulations and reimbursement challenges, partnerships and alliances between faith-based and secular healthcare organizations have become much more common. These entities may enter into partnerships as simple as sharing laundry facilities, or as complicated as an acquisition. In this increasingly “blurred” environment, it can be difficult to remain well-defined as a faith-based organization and maintain the integrity and clarity of its mission.
A faith-based healthcare provider must be careful not to minimize the expression of its mission as a trade-off for a financially beneficial or more convenient partnership. Conversely, there may be opportunities to expand the ministry mission culture of the faith-based organization within the secular partner’s culture. A secular provider may, for example, have a chaplain program that is skeletal at best. This provides an opportunity for the faith-based organization to step in and develop this area of patient care, a benefit to both partners that also grows the ministry—and may boost overall patient satisfaction, too!
Faith-based and secular providers can also partner to educate their shared community about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventive care. It can make available services to those in need which are in alignment with the core beliefs of the faith-based partner.
No matter the type of alliance, a faith-based healthcare organization should consider how partnerships like these will affect — or have already affected — the expression of its ministry.
3. Increased Government Interference
The growth of the number of laws and regulations enacted by federal and state governments for healthcare providers is stronger than ever. Policies like the Affordable Care Act have changed the way faith-based organizations must interact with nearly every aspect of its reach, and cannot be ignored. It is becoming increasingly difficult to adhere to religious tenets regarding abortions or providing birth control, and hiring practices and insurance coverage are also being affected greatly.
Faith-based organizations shouldn’t opt out of the discussion or ignore its influence, particularly in an election year. Leaders must always keep in mind how upcoming legal decisions and regulations at the state, local and federal level will affect the organization when making plans for the future. Simply operating “business as usual” will later be detrimental to the organization and may cause problems —possibly even irreparable problems — that could have been avoided.