4 Background Check Best Practices for Healthcare HR

4 Background Check Best Practices for Healthcare HR
Senior Director of Marketing

When it comes to employment background checks, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Most healthcare employers use background checks as part of their due diligence process to protect the safety of their patients and staff. With so much at stake, it’s important that healthcare employers have an effective and efficient background screening program. Putting together a thorough employment screening program can be challenging. My colleague Vu Do, Vice President of Compliance at PreCheck, offers the following four tips for improving your employment screening program.

1. Document a Thorough and Consistent Employment Screening Program

Healthcare employers should establish a thorough and consistent employment screening program that’s reviewed by counsel. A detailed policy that defines screening components, describes required actions, identifies task owners, and establishes timelines will best ensure a successful pre-employment credentialing experience.

The program must account for what items will be investigated and verified (e.g. criminal history, education, employment, licensure, etc.) as well as the scope of the searches (e.g. 7 year criminal history search of the last 5 years of residence, highest education obtained, last three employers, etc.). Taking a checklist approach means that items that need to be verified and reviewed won’t be inadvertently left off the list, thereby ensuring a consistently applied practice.

Additionally, employers must anticipate and account for alternative methods of verification when the primary means cannot be satisfied. For example, what will the employer accept when a student’s high school records have been purged, destroyed in a fire or natural disaster? What about employment records that are no longer available? In these instances, what will the employer accept in lieu of unavailable primary source records? Establishing these alternative credentialing practices in a screening program will better ensure the process goes efficiently.

2. Select the Right Background Screening Partner for Your Healthcare Organization

It’s obvious that finding a healthcare specific screening provider offers a host of benefits, most notably familiarity with screening requirements of healthcare employers. A provider’s knowledge of OIG sanction screening, state exclusion lists, and state statutes outlining source specific screening requirements is essential. In addition to understanding the key components of a healthcare employment background check, the provider’s expertise must include federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance and that of state consumer reporting laws and restrictions, “Ban the Box” legislation, and EEOC guidance on employer’s use of conviction records. Knowledge of these regulations is fundamental to the business of background checks, and as employers continue to face ongoing litigation and regulatory scrutiny with respect to FCRA compliance, the help of a compliance savvy screening partner is a must.

Additionally, a screening provider needs to ensure the type of customer care that delivers responsiveness, education, and ongoing support. No matter the size of your healthcare organization, there’s always a preference to get hold of a human being on the other end of the line to answer questions. And this is absolutely the case when the matter is pressing, as when a Joint Commission auditor is on site inquiring about background check practices. Look for a screening partner that will provide the personalized and attentive care that your organization needs.

3. Adjust Your Processes to Avoid Delays

As an employer you may not anticipate a host of challenges that can surface, but an awareness that your healthcare organization’s processes and participation have key roles in possibly alleviating those challenges is noteworthy. By making some minor adjustments to your processes, you can help ensure your background check program runs smoothly with minimal delays.

Collecting and providing complete applicant information at the earliest stages has a direct correlation to increased completion rates and reduced turnaround time of background check reports. This is not to say uncontrollable factors won’t contribute to a delay; factors such as temporary school closures, court response times, or an employer’s delay in or unwillingness to verify employment of a former employee. However, having an applicant provide as much information as possible and making that available to a screening partner early on will create the best chances to complete a report quickly and thoroughly.  Additionally, providing a signed authorization form early on will also ensure a quick turnaround.

4. Be Mindful of What’s at Stake

If unaware of their legal obligations, employers potentially face several types of liability when using background checks as a hiring tool:

  • Negligent hiring: If an employer fails to uncover or consider pertinent criminal history, allegations may arise that the employer hired an individual that it should not have. The worst case scenario would be if that employee then went on to harm a patient or staff member, and had the employer known about the crime, it would not have hired the applicant. An employer must work together with their screening provider to perform the proper due diligence.
  • Discriminatory hiring: On the other end of the spectrum, employers may also face claims of discriminatory hiring practices from individuals with criminal history alleging that their records should not have influenced the hiring decision because they do not relate to the position sought, are too old, etc. Employers must understand how to treat and consider conviction records.
  • Statute violations: When employers fail to comply with the FCRA, state laws, city ordinances, “Ban the Box” measures, or the EEOC guidance on how employers should consider convictions in the hiring context, they may face legal action from applicants, employees and/or state and federal regulators. More than ever, employers are being targeted in FCRA class action lawsuits, and the trend only continues to rise.

As an employer, you have many choices when it comes to your background screening program. By following the four tips outlined above, however, you can ensure that your employment screening program is thorough, effective and efficient.

Are you currently evaluating background screening providers? Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help you implement your employment background check program.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit