Top 5 Benefits of Employment Background Checks in Healthcare

Top 5 Benefits of Employment Background Checks in Healthcare
Senior Director of Marketing

At PreCheck, we’re passionate about patient care in everything that we do as a background check services provider. While most employers see the value of background checks as a safety mechanism, I thought I would review some of the key benefits an effective background screening process can offer healthcare employers.

Protect Your Patients from Harm

While I don’t like to dwell in negative news, there have been a few recent cases that reinforce the value of background checks in healthcare. First, there’s the case of Kenneth Dean Lee, a Colorado predator who pretended to be a doctor for 15 years in order to sexually assault vulnerable Vietnamese immigrants. While Dean used phone books in Aurora, Colorado to find his victims, an effective credentialing and background check process can keep predators from treating patients at healthcare organizations.

Consider the recent case of Dr. William Dando, a former Maryland doctor who faced sexual assault charges from a 41-year-old patient this year. Although the prosecutor dropped the charges in September 2014, Dr. Dando agreed never to practice medicine in the State of Maryland again. Nevertheless, state health officials are investigating how Dando was able to receive a medical license in Maryland in 1996 despite the 1987 rape conviction in Florida. In states such as Maryland, where the medical board does not regularly conduct background checks on doctors, having a background check policy as a medical staff office is key to ensure no one “falls through the cracks.”

Protect Your Organization from Federal Fines

The US. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has the authority to impose Civil Monetary Penalties on healthcare organizations that engage individuals or entities that have been excluded from participating in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare. These fines can add up fairly quickly as the government considers each procedure each excluded individual or entity performed. As a healthcare organization, if you do not regularly screen your staff, physicians, or even vendors against the federal and state Medicaid exclusion lists, you could be placing your organization under a considerable amount of risk. Most healthcare compliance professionals will agree that having an exclusion screening program is key to support compliance with the government and avoid fines.

Avoid Negligent Hiring and Credentialing

Background checks can help mitigate the risk your organization may experience when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits. Since negligent hiring and credentialing are one of the many faces of corporate negligence, it’s critical that healthcare organizations have the proper protocols in place to qualify providers at the time of hire. In a recent interview for the PreCheck Blog, attorney Joshua McCaig of Polsinelli LLC states, “It is vital to conduct a personal background search for any red flags that would call into question the character of the potential employee.” According to McCaig, the main benefit of a thorough background check, in addition to the obvious ethical obligation to hire professional providers, is that it decreases the potential culpability of healthcare organizations from allegations about credentialing and hiring.

Follow the Best Practices Across Industries

Although the Affordable Care Act has a provision mandating background checks for some healthcare organizations, it is only a small portion of the healthcare industry. For most employers, there is no federal mandate for conducting criminal background checks on employees. Nevertheless, most employers choose to use background checks in their hiring processes according to the latest research. According to the 2014 Compliance and Ethics Program Environment Survey, “nearly all organizations (93%) conduct background checks for some or all individuals in positions of trust (where permitted by law).” Despite the absence of a federal mandate, background checks are regarded as a best practice across all industries, including healthcare.

Protect Patients (and Your Organization) in the Long-Term

While I’ve addressed some of the top benefits of background checks, healthcare employers should also consider the limits of a background check. Background checks should not be considered a one-time practice. A background report represents a snapshot of an individual at a certain point in time, which means that components such as criminal history can change over time. Recent studies show that nearly one out of five employers conduct background checks periodically. Healthcare employers should consider incorporating a continual criminal check component to their background screening process to ensure the long-term safety of their patients and staff. In their 2013 Special Advisory Bulletin regarding exclusion screening, the OIG recommends that healthcare organizations check the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) on a monthly basis in order to minimize the level of risk. This means that having a monthly exclusion screening process can keep excluded individuals and entities from treating patients and help your organization avoid Civil Monetary Penalties.

Have you reviewed your background check policy for 2015? Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help you enhance and streamline your background check process.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit