Considerations for Continuous Background Screening in Healthcare

Marketing Director

Although not a novel concept, the practice of continuous, constant background screening has recently gained momentum among employers. “Continuous screening is more widely available today than it was even a couple of years ago, due in large part to advances in technology,” Melissa Sorenson, Executive Director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), explained in an article for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

This year, Uber became one of the first large companies to go public about its continuous background check process. “Our new leadership has made safety the top priority at Uber and we are committed to ensuring drivers continue to meet our safety standards on an ongoing basis,” Uber spokeswoman Brooke Anderson states in a Bloomberg article.

With continuous screening gaining wider adoption across industries, what are the implications for healthcare employers specifically?

Limitations of Pre-Employment Checks and Ongoing Exclusion Screening

For healthcare employers, ensuring patient safety, creating a safe work environment for employees, and mitigating risk are essential reasons to conduct post-hire, recurring criminal history checks. While most hospitals and healthcare organizations conduct pre-employment background checks, these one-time checks represent a true snapshot in time. Conducting an initial criminal history background check at time of hire may simply not be enough. Healthcare employers can be missing out on critical information about their staff without continuous screening.

Hospital medical staff services departments already conduct a type of “post-hire” background check, as organizations often require a background check for reappointment or when there are any changes in privileges. This requirement recognizes that the information on a background check can change over time depending on the subject of the report and their criminal activity.

Monthly exclusion screening has become an industry standard for healthcare since the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an advisory bulletin on the subject in 2013. While exclusion screening serves an important purpose in an effective healthcare compliance program, it may not be enough to uncover other red flags that a criminal background check can reveal. Although it is a form of continuous screening that is prevalent in the healthcare industry, exclusion checks are limited by design and cannot uncover the same type of information as a more robust criminal check.

Continuous Screening: A Proactive Approach in Healthcare

While Uber recently implemented a continuous background check program, the company had previously faced criticism for not being thorough enough with its background checks and a number of high-profile cases of drivers assaulting passengers had surfaced. A healthcare organization’s reputation is absolutely critical to its ability to serve its client base and has become more important than ever for both patients and employees that represent consumers in today’s market. Taking a proactive approach can go a long way in preventing dangerous incidents, safeguarding your organization’s reputation, and staying out of news headlines.

A thorough continuous background screening program can serve as a proactive mitigation tool to protect your brand and reputation. This screening practice can help enhance your healthcare organization’s compliance program and can act as a deterrent similar to a random drug testing initiative.

Healthcare employers are responsible for knowing if their employees present a risk to patients, their colleagues, and to the business itself. Being in the know as a healthcare employer is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity.

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