Continuous Employment Screening in Healthcare: Staying Ahead of Emerging Trends

Marketing Director

While most healthcare employers conduct some form of employment background checks to safeguard their patients and staff, these screenings should not be limited to the ones conducted at the time of hire. Indeed, background screening experts have identified the emergence of a new trend referred to as infinity screening. “Infinity screening is the process of conducting background checks on current employees on a periodic or ongoing basis to stay informed about life changes which could create increased risk for your organization,” W. Barry Nixon, COO at PreemploymentDirectory.com, states in an article from the 2016-2017 Background Screening Industry Resource Guide. Infinity screening has several synonyms you may already be familiar with; the terms continuous screening, reocurring screening and post hire screening are synonymous and have been used interchangeably.

As you review your healthcare organization’s background screening initiatives, here are a few things to keep in mind when making your screening policy more long-term.

Continuous Screening is on the Rise

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has identified continuous screening as one of the key employment screening trends for 2017. “As employers become increasingly familiar with implementing pre-employment background screening programs, they will continue to think beyond the initial screen,” Vu T. Do, Vice President of Compliance at PreCheck, commented in a 2017 SHRM article. “A pre-employment background check is critical, but it only represents searches conducted and information verified at a specific point in time. Employers want continued peace of mind once the applicant becomes an employee.”

For a highly regulated industry such as healthcare, continuous screening can be an effective strategy for organizations aiming to mitigate risk. Consider adopting annual, semiannual or continuous, post-hire screening to protect your organization in the long-term. While not a new tactic, it’s a rising trend for employers and its practice offers risk mitigation benefits when implemented effectively.

Monthly Healthcare Exclusion Screening is the Current Standard

For healthcare organizations, specifically, there’s another element of the screening process that should be continuous even if you do not have an extensive post-hire background check policy. Although exclusion screening is not federally mandated, the consequences of not having an ongoing exclusion screening program can be costly for any employer. Exclusion screenings should be conducted on a monthly basis, the standard frequency set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) in their 2013 Special Advisory Bulletin. The cost of not screening? If your organization engages with excluded individuals and entities, you could be liable for hefty civil monetary penalties (CMPs) and fines. For example, in January 2017, the OIG fined New Jersey unlicensed Dentist Roben Brookhim for $1,134,000 for practicing in violation of his exclusion from federal healthcare programs. While this is an extraordinary case, with the OIG imposing a 50-year exclusion term on Brookhim, it demonstrates that violating the exclusion law can cost healthcare organizations millions. An extensive ongoing exclusion screening program is critical for any healthcare organization that participates in federal healthcare programs.

Employment background checks are an important part of the hiring process, but they should no longer be considered exclusive to the pre-hire stage, especially in a safety-sensitive and highly regulated industry such as healthcare. By staying ahead of emerging trends and adopting more continuous screening policies, healthcare organizations can mitigate risk and keep their patients and staff safe in the long-term while minimizing risk for federal fines.

Need help modifying your background screening program? Contact us today to learn how we can help you implement a continuous background screening program based on your organization’s unique structure, needs, and preferences.

PreCheck Pulse Report: Healthcare Employment Screening Trends Report