Health Coaching Legalities: Contracts

*This blog discussion is intended for educational purposes only and should not take the place of or supersede the advice of an attorney or legal counsel*

First rule of contracts… always have a contract! It is not taboo, you should not be embarrassed, you should not be hesitant to use contracts. It is good business!

When it comes to working with the public, especially in healthcare, it is critical for documentation to be maintained and stored properly and the importance of privacy and confidentiality cannot be understated. This is part of the reason why you need to define your services well, so you can prevent legal nightmares as your business develops.

So, how will you specifically need to use a contract and what should it say? We’re glad you asked!

We have put together a list of contract elements taken from a number of attorneys and summarized just for you!

What to consider when creating a contract:

  • A description of your services and potentially a direct explanation of what you DO NOT provide (this is especially important if you are a licensed clinician who prefers not to function in a clinical role while coaching)
  • Coach/Patient expectations (roles, responsibilities)
  • Confidentiality/Ethics (this may include sexual advances or harassment)
  • Release of Information (under what conditions information is released, if at all)
  • Record Retention (how long documentation is retained)
  • Termination and Refund Policy (conditions for ending the relationship)
  • Dispute Resolution (how disagreements are managed)
  • Payment Terms
  • Signature

This is also where you need to continue to think about your disclaimers, our topic for yesterday’s blog, how they are being used and where. Use the same disclaimers or similar in your contract especially under the expectations section.

The key is to keep your contract language simple so both you and the patient/client are confident in the expectations and they are clear on what they are agreeing to when signing this document.

Word usage and terms matter! There are words and phrases which are considered licensed language for clinical practice, which are guided by State Practice Acts and Rules & Regulations. These can also provide language that is non-clinical to guide you. Here are some examples:

Terms least likely to raise a red flag:

  • General support, supportive
  • Client-directed
  • Client-guided
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Healthy Eating
  • Client-chosen goals
  • Non-medical; non-clinical

You can tell these terms keep the focus on the patient leading the change, rather than the coach dictating what needs to occur. Also, the focus on health lifestyle versus ‘exercise’ and healthy eating versus ‘diet’ keeps you in your lane!

These terms are of licensed, clinical language:

  • Advice, Advise
  • Prescribe/Prescription
  • Counseling
  • Assess
  • Diagnose
  • Treat
  • Medical
  • Clinical
  • and in some states, Education, regarding Nutrition. Also, individualized meal plans or recipes, adapting recipes or meal plans, and nutrition counseling

You can tell these terms are much more clinical, not patient-driven, and could potentially put you out of your lane and in harm’s way!

Review the language used in your contract, your sales and marketing materials and your website to make sure you have your bases covered. And have a lawyer look over your contracts before hand!

We hope this blog series can help you grow a healthy, happy start-up that will lead to many happy, healthy patients!

Leave a Reply