How Patient Care is Improved Through Sound Employee Background Screening
With increased regulation, generational shifts, and growing demand, the healthcare industry is being forced to adapt to volatile changes in the way it does business. And although many of the regulations enacted through the Affordable Care Act are focused on quality of care, the competing priorities of lower costs, greater access, and consumer protections risk negatively impacting the standards of patient care. Is there an effective and scalable solution that can address this Catch-22? In this article, we explore how patient care is improved through sound employee background screening.
Healthcare Employment Verification
In an industry where people’s lives and wellbeing are at stake, the physicians, nurses, and technicians responsible must have the knowledge and experience to guide them. When making a hiring decision on these individuals, an application, resume, or interview will summarize their previous jobs and education, but the truth is that you can’t be assured of the accuracy of that critical information without thorough employee background screening.
Employment verification should include job titles, start and end dates, and eligibility for re-hire, if possible. This investigative work should provide enough information to gather the big picture of the candidate’s past employment experience, capabilities and expertise and assess whether the candidate’s resume matches the verification. In reviewing the information obtained, it’s important to be aware of employment gaps and job hopping behavior.
Furthermore, in such a high-risk industry where, in addition to patient’s lives, the institution’s reputation and malpractice insurance profile is also at stake, inadvertently hiring a medical professional with questionable credentials or fabricated degrees is an employer’s worst nightmare. Partnering with a background screening partner that can also verify education and other credentials, including medical licenses and certifications, is critical for risk mitigation.
It’s no secret that the healthcare field is one of high stress and significant risk of burnout. Physicians and nurses work long, exhausting hours; many face life-or-death situations every day, and the majority have easy access to prescription drugs. Thus, substance abuse is an unfortunate but common consequence, with 10 to 12 percent of physicians abusing prescription drugs at some point in their career, according to some studies.
Drug screening, then, is an imperative factor in healthcare employee background checks. Addiction in healthcare workers can lead to catastrophic results, with patients not receiving the care and, in some cases, the medications that they need. Misdiagnosis and maltreatment are common consequences that (sometimes fatally) impact the wellbeing of the patient and jeopardize the employer’s reputation in the medical field. Careful thought should be given to the type of screening to be used with regard to the ability to detect long-term use and the types of drugs to be identified. For example, urine testing is most useful for detecting drug use within the last 72 hours; after more than 72 hours of non-use, drugs can be difficult to detect in urine.
Hand-in-hand with drug screening is occupational health screening. Ensuring that a prospective hire or an employee has the necessary vaccinations and isn’t a carrier of TB is absolutely necessary to ensure the health and safety of the patients with whom they will interact.
It’s an unfortunate reality that the healthcare industry is no stranger to criminal activity. Several states do not require background checks for medical licensure, and of those that do, many rely on inaccurate FBI fingerprinting checks. Furthermore, as we’ve discussed recently, surveys indicate high percentages of nursing home residents who claim they’ve been abused by their caregivers and medical providers.
Searching source records at the county level and augmenting those searches with state and federal criminal records database searches can help employers ensure they’re hiring individuals who do not pose a risk in the workplace. That said, organizations must be aware of inadvertent discrimination and must stay up to date with local ban‑the‑box laws that aim to limit potential discrimination against former convicts who have already served their time for the crimes they committed.
Additionally, a thorough background screening partner should check government sanctions and watch lists, as well as sex offender registries because of interaction with vulnerable populations. These searches are a critically important element to reducing risks associated with employee crime in the healthcare industry.
We believe that patient care is improved through sound employee background screening upon hire, but it doesn’t stop there. With little knowledge of what an employee’s life looks like outside the hospital or healthcare facility, it’s possible that they will develop undetected bad habits or end up in risky situations that threaten the wellbeing of their patients and possibly co-workers. Therefore, re-screening current employees on a regular basis is imperative. Additionally, an employer’s HR team and legal counsel should develop procedures for addressing criminal activity and drug use by current employees.
Patient Care is Improved Through Sound Employee Background Screening
With so much change in the healthcare industry, the employee background check becomes an essential element in mitigating risk and improving patient care. It’s a step that, if skipped, can lead to an unsafe environment for patients and co-workers, discredited reputation, and the financial costs of litigation and settlements with injured parties.