Home Healthcare Background Checks: 3 Things Employers Should Know
There’s been no shortage of stories regarding home healthcare background screening practices in recent years. In fact, here are three noteworthy developments from 2014 alone. As we approach 2015, now may be an opportune time to review your organization’s background screening policies.
40 States Have Background Check Requirements for Home Healthcare Workers
According to a May 29, 2014 memo from Brian P. Ritchie, Active Deputy Inspector General for Evaluation and Inspections, 40 states and the District of Columbia require home health agencies to conduct background checks on prospective employees. Although this means that 10 states do not have background check requirements for home healthcare employers, 4 states reported they have plans to implement background check requirements in the future. Even among the states that have background check requirements, those vary from state to state. For example, only 15 states require home health agencies to receive the results of background checks before an applicant can begin employment. 35 states specify convictions that disqualify individuals from employment. Employers, therefore, should consider reviewing local state requirements to ensure their background check practices are compliant.
The Abulay Nian Case and the Importance of Checking Across State Boundaries
Employers should consider the recent criminal cases of home healthcare workers when updating their background screening policies. For example, consider the case of Abulay Nian, a 31-year-old home healthcare aide charged with raping a teenage girl in Ohio. In the 10TV news report, Glenn McEntyre explains how Nian’s employer, Atlas Home Health Care, conducted state and local background checks that came back clean. Prosecutors, however, report that Nian has convictions in New York and North Carolina on charges that include assault on a female. Authorities, therefore, classify Nian as a “repeat violent offender.” In the news story, Nian’s employer disclosed they were unaware of his out of state convictions, explaining the State of Ohio does not require them to look outside state boundaries.
The key takeaway from the Nian case is that patients can be harmed if employers are not running background checks that are comprehensive and up-to-date. Nian’s scenario could have been avoided if the employer would have looked into the employee’s residential history and conducted criminal searches in the appropriate locations. While states such as Ohio may not require home healthcare agencies to conduct criminal searches outside of the state, this type of media exposure can be detrimental to any healthcare organization’s reputation.
The OIG’s 2015 Work Plan Discusses the Investigation of Individuals with Criminal Convictions Employed in Home Health Agencies
In its 2015 Work Plan, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated they would focus their efforts on determining the extent to which home health agencies employed individuals with criminal convictions. Their oversight will also include determining whether selected employees have potentially disqualifying criminal convictions. As mentioned earlier, it’s important that home healthcare employers review their state and local laws as 35 states currently specify criminal convictions that can disqualify an individual from employment in home healthcare. Furthermore, having a continual background screening program in place could help mitigate risk for any healthcare employer while supporting ongoing compliance with local and state laws.
With the government increasing its oversight of home healthcare employers, it’s an optimal time for home health agencies to review their background screening practices for adherence to the latest requirements.