5 Reasons Why Background Checks Are Essential for Healthcare Hiring

A simple mistake from a healthcare employee can cost your business big. A pharmacist who accidentally discloses a patient’s HIV status or a nurse who steals potentially lethal prescription drugs to feed an addiction can create serious liabilities. While there is no federal mandate for background checks, nearly all healthcare employers use them as a best practice. 

Identity Verification

The banking and finance industries deal with astronomical sums of money; these are the funds consumers rely on to pay for college, start a new business or save for retirement. However, these institutions must also safeguard those funds by hiring honest and trustworthy people. A background check for healthcare workers can help companies identify potential red flags, such as a criminal record for embezzlement or theft.

Healthcare is very sensitive, with employees contacting patients in potentially dangerous situations. Background checks can uncover malpractice and disciplinary actions that may put your medical staff at risk.

Identity verification is the first step in a thorough background check. This process involves a third-party company that can check a candidate’s social security number against government records and other sources to ensure their identity is valid. It can also reveal any aliases the candidate has used. This is crucial for healthcare hiring, as it prevents applicants from exaggerating their credentials on their resumes. It also allows organizations to verify employment and education, as well as to check professional licenses.

Employment Verification

People who work in healthcare often have access to sensitive data, including medical records. It’s essential to verify the employment history of healthcare candidates to ensure they don’t have criminal convictions that could be a risk to patient safety. In addition to checking a candidate’s past job experience, healthcare background checks typically include education and credential verifications. This ensures that the candidate has the degree of preparation for their job and helps employers confirm the accuracy of the information they provide on a resume or application.

Verifications also help prevent fraud by confirming that the candidate is working with the true name they claim to use at work. This step can help weed out people who are trying to lie on their applications or maybe using their position as healthcare workers to commit crimes like identity theft, credit card fraud, and even medical terrorism. In addition, verifications can help a company avoid hiring people not legally permitted to work in the United States. For example, federal exclusion searches can identify candidates who appear on the Office of Inspector General’s list of healthcare workers prohibited from receiving federal funds.

Drug Screening

Drug testing uses biological samples – urine, saliva, sweat, and hair – to determine the presence of drugs that can interfere with work performance. Employers typically choose from a standard 5-panel test that detects marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP) or a more extensive panel of tests to include a broader range of street drugs, painkillers, and some legal prescription medication.

Employees often resent workplace drug testing, which they may perceive as an unwarranted invasion of their privacy and an attempt to control their lives. They may also resent the consequences of a positive result, such as referral to EAPs or treatment programs and termination in keeping with company policies. Employers can perform a drug screening test onsite or have it professionally conducted at laboratories equipped to ensure quality control, split samples, and chain of custody. 

Federal Exclusion Search

A background check can reveal a potential employee’s criminal record. Still, healthcare employers must ensure they only hire people barred from federally funded programs. This is why a federal exclusion search should be run on every candidate. This search identifies individuals or entities prohibited from participating in Medicare and other federal healthcare programs. It helps to avoid the risk of civil monetary penalties (CMP) that can be levied against a provider who is found to have reimbursed or received federal healthcare dollars from a sanctioned individual or entity.

A national criminal search examines a candidate’s criminal records from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and offender registries in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. It can help prevent a healthcare organization from hiring someone who has committed a serious crime like murder or sexual assault, which could cause real harm to patients. This search can also uncover a history of fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, and other criminal activity that may put patients at risk.

Medical Sanctions Check

Healthcare workers are trusted to care for patients who cannot care for themselves, and background checks can reveal if past mistakes could put them at risk of harming others. In addition to criminal and education verification, a comprehensive sanctions screening can show an individual’s history of administrative or disciplinary actions.

Sanction searches can only uncover information from the most up-to-date sources, but it is also important to conduct continuous exclusion monitoring once a worker is hired. This can save you the time and money spent on a failed hire due to new charges or violations that would not have surfaced in a single background check run. It can also protect you from legal exposure from a negligent hire lawsuit.


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