How to Avoid a Healthcare HR Nightmare

How to Avoid a Healthcare HR Nightmare
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Managing and maintaining a compliant healthcare workspace can be a daunting and intimidating task. One wrong step can result in damaging claims, costly fines, and much more. From the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), regulators are increasing deterrents efforts to ensure employers are proactive in establishing fair hiring practices and safe working environments.

With so much on the line, here are a few things healthcare HR should consider when reviewing their organization’s compliance and safety initiatives.

Establish an Exclusion Screening Program

Having an effective exclusion screening program is not only important for protecting patients from being treated by excluded individuals, but also to safeguard your healthcare organization from incurring civil monetary penalties (CMPs).  Last year, the OIG announced the creation of a new litigation team dedicated to pursuing CMPs and exclusion cases. With the OIG’s increasing enforcement efforts regarding exclusions, healthcare organizations who employ excluded practitioners can be subject to hefty governmental fines up to $10,000 per day, per patient, per item, says Frank Pierce, Principal Consultant for Sanction Screening at PreCheck. For example, if an excluded individual gives a patient three pills, the fine is already at $30,000, Pierce explains.

Enact a Drug Testing Policy

For industries such as healthcare that take care of vulnerable populations, it is imperative for employers to apply stringent drug testing policies that safeguard patients and staff alike. While some state and individual health system regulations do exist, they tend to be weak. In fact, our PreCheck Pulse: Healthcare Employment Screening Trends Report found that 45 percent of healthcare organizations don’t drug test physicians at all and about a third don’t perform drug tests on them at the time of hire.

Also, according to a 2013 commentary published in The Journal of American Medical Association, at least one-third of all physicians, at some point in their career, will experience a period during which they have a condition that impairs their ability to practice safely. Physicians and patient safety experts agree that hospitals should take a number of preventive measures that include an alcohol-drug testing policy, at time of hire and random.

Ensure I-9 Compliance

The cost of Form I-9 non-compliance recently increased significantly for employers. On August 1, 2016, the fine amounts for I-9 violations doubled thanks to a new rule reported by the Department of Justice (DOJ) this past June. The DOJ increased CMP across the board in order to account for inflation and to ensure that the fines continue to maintain their deterrent effect, says John Fray, Vice President and General Counsel at LawLogix. For example, Form I-9 paperwork violations used to range from $110 to $1,000 per violation; today, new fines range from $216 to $2,126 per violation.

Assure Compliance with EEOC When Using Social Media for Hiring

The EEOC’s main concern about using social media during the hiring process is discrimination. Hiring managers should be careful when they stumble upon candidates’ social media profile because they can be exposed to gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, and pregnancy just from a single Facebook photo, says Kortney Nordrum, an attorney and social media expert at HCCA, in a webinar earlier this year.

To mitigate risk, Nordrum advises separating the people conducting the social media research from the hiring managers. Have another person do the research. The person screening candidates on social media should contact the hiring manager only if there are red flags or discerning information on their profile.

By focusing on compliance, you can avoid many devastating healthcare HR nightmares. This time of year is great for reviewing your policies to kick off the upcoming year on the right foot.

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