The Importance of Background Checks for Healthcare Workers: Ensuring Patient Safety

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Whether you’re hiring for a doctor, nurse, or support staff member, a background check is essential. A bad hire in healthcare can have catastrophic consequences.

Background checks in the medical field should include a variety of role-specific searches that wouldn’t make sense for most other roles, such as a motor vehicle check and credit history search.

Identity Verification

With the growing number of people moving online, healthcare organizations must be prepared for the increased risk of digital security breaches. This includes identity verification. A good identity verification solution combines multiple factors to ensure genuine information, allowing healthcare workers to verify a patient’s identity quickly and easily.

Incorrect patient identification is one of the most common healthcare fraud cases. It can result in lost or delayed files and wrong treatment and encourage fraudsters to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, modern technology can help eliminate these errors by enabling healthcare workers to quickly and reliably authenticate a patient’s identity through software like facial recognition.

Unlike traditional verification methods, biometric identity verification utilizes physical or behavioral characteristics such as fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, voice recognition, and iris scanning to confirm an individual’s identity. It also helps prevent the use of stolen or fake identities by eliminating the need for passwords, PINs, and ID cards.

When selecting an identity verification company, look for a provider that offers customizable plans designed to meet the specific needs of the healthcare sector. A digitized identity verification process can provide an invaluable service to hospitals by reducing the time and money spent on non-patient-related activities, such as resolving complaints. It can also save them from the potential consequences of medical identity theft, which is a growing problem in the healthcare industry.

National Sex Offender Searches

A national sex offender search is a must-have component for healthcare background checks. Due to the power imbalance of doctor-patient relationships, healthcare facilities are a hotbed for sexual abuse and other criminal misconduct. These checks help ensure that no one working at your hospital or practice will be a registered sex offender.

Federal exclusion searches are another critical element of a background check for healthcare workers, and they are essential for medical practices that receive government funding, such as Medicare. If a new hire has been excluded from federal programs like these, your facility could be subject to an audit and costly fines. A national exclusion search helps you avoid this fate by ensuring that every healthcare worker on your team is eligible to work with the federal government.

While not all background check services are relevant for every healthcare position, the most common include criminal history checks, national sex offender searches, federal and state exclusion lists, education and employment verifications, professional license verifications, drug screenings, and motor vehicle record checks. While some of these services won’t make sense for every type of medical professional, a thorough and consistent background check policy is crucial for all healthcare workers to protect patients and existing employees and uphold a facility’s reputation. This is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when even a bad hire can have catastrophic consequences.

National Criminal Checks

In addition to the typical education, work history, professional license verification, and criminal background checks, healthcare companies should include national criminal searches. These intensive searches scour expansive databases for information on a candidate’s illegal activity. They can uncover records related to drug abuse, theft, fraud, violent crimes, and other offenses that would be a risk for patients or colleagues in a medical setting.

The medical industry is vulnerable to theft and other types of financial crimes since employees are handling patients’ personal information, money, valuables like jewelry and other possessions, and prescription drugs that may have serious side effects if misused. In the worst cases, a healthcare employee’s mistake could cause irreparable harm to their patient.

In addition to criminal checks, healthcare organizations should conduct a federal exclusion search on all potential hires. This search reveals whether the U.S. government has sanctioned a candidate for not being qualified to participate in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Sanctions are typically due to criminal charges, health-related violations, or a loss of professional licensure. Healthcare organizations that employ these workers risk being barred from receiving reimbursement for their services, which can be devastating for a practice. A federal exclusion search can prevent these financial pitfalls from occurring. It can also ensure that an employee isn’t working illegally by engaging in a prohibited activity that could result in fines or sanctions from their employer.

Federal Exclusion Searches

Healthcare background checks are a diverse category of background screenings that often combine criminal and credit history, valid professional licensure verification, registries of sex offenses, drug use, and driving records. They are a critical part of hiring for jobs like doctors, nurses, and aides, as they have direct access to patients.

Additionally, many healthcare workers are responsible for handling powerful prescription drugs that can be misused or abused. That’s why employee drug tests are crucial to any medical field screening.

Lastly, a specific type of background check unique to the healthcare industry is called a federal exclusion search (or a prohibited persons or entities screen). The Office of Inspector General lists individuals and entities barred from federally funded healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. If you hire a person on this list, you are breaking the law and could face fines and penalties from the government.

Healthcare employers should also consider additional role-specific checks, such as education and employment verification for new hires or a specialized sex offender search for doctors. A sex offender search for doctors is critical due to the power imbalance in doctor-patient relationships that can be exploited for sexual abuse purposes. Similarly, a motor vehicle record check might not make sense for every medical worker. Still, it might be essential for ambulance drivers or hospital administrators with access to vehicles and financial resources.

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