What Services should be Included in a Healthcare Professional Background Check?

stethoscopeBecause life is literally in the hands of a health care professional, background checks are essential. Healthcare background checks help ensure that untrustworthy individuals are not hired by hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. Tragedies can be avoided if administrators conduct thorough healthcare background checks.

For instance, inadequate background checks are blamed for the fact that nurse Charles Cullen was able to murder 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania between 1988 and 2003. Cullen had been fired from five previous healthcare facilities, yet this “red flag” hiring information did not come up because hiring agents did not adequately check into Cullen’s background.

Furthermore, ballooning healthcare costs and declining profit margins motivate hospital facilities to avoid all unnecessary legal fees. Improperly conducted healthcare background checks put a healthcare facility at risk of being found negligent (and paying large amounts in remuneration) in court.

Below, we list services that should be included in healthcare background checks. Although it is possible for in-house employees to do health care professional background checks, most healthcare facilities hire third-party background check companies to do it for them. This is usually the most cost-effective approach.

Criminal Background Checks

Civil and criminal court records should be searched when conducting healthcare background checks. If a candidate has a history of arrests and lawsuits, he is not a safe hire. But this is only the first step a thorough background company will carry out. Complete healthcare professional background checks should also include:

  • Social security number verification (to verify the applicant is not using a false identity).
  • I-9 data from DHA and SSA databases (to make sure the worker is legal to work in this country).
  • Civil and criminal information on a county, state and national level (to make sure the potential hire has not been convicted of a crime or involved in a negative civil case, such as for workplace harassment).
  • A search of sexual offender databases as mandated by Megan’s Law.
  • Fingerprinting through the Department of Justice, to check for federal-level warnings and crimes.
  • A search for liens and other financial judgments, as evidence of personal character.
  • Consumer credit history, again to indicate temperament.
  • Driver’s histories, especially if the applicant will be driving on the job.

OIG-GSA Checks

Hospitals are eager to comply with information found in both OIG and GSA databases because otherwise they could be accused of negligent hiring. Individuals may be listed in OIG-GSA databases after committing fraud or patient abuse. Negative licensing board actions and default on health education assistance loans may also land an individual on OIG-GSA exclusion lists.

In this instance, OIG stands for Office of Inspector General. This office operates under the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. One of the OIG’s duties is to maintain an exclusions database that lists the names of people who have, for some reason or other, been excluded from working for Medicare. This indicates whether the federal government trusts a person to work with seniors.

Similarly, the GSA (General Services Administration) maintains a list of individuals excluded from doing business with the federal government. By accessing the Excluded Parties List System, which lists OIG & GSA exclusions including those from the FDA and the DEA, it is possible to reduce the healthcare facility’s liability when hiring a new health care professional. Background checks should absolutely include a search of OIG-GSA data.

FACIS Checks

The federal Fraud and Abuse Control Information System lists healthcare professionals who have received disciplinary action from federal agencies. The FACIS system also includes certification and licensing information from all fifty states. Healthcare background checks are incomplete without FACIS data.

DEA Checks

As mentioned earlier, health care professional background checks should include a search of Drug Enforcement Administration data. Such searches help healthcare facilities avoid hiring individuals who have been involved in disciplinary actions related to drug use.

HIPDB Checks

The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank includes information on individuals who have been involved in healthcare fraud.

NPDB Checks

To check an individual’s professional history, it’s helpful to check the National Practitioner Data Bank, which includes information on clinical privileges, licensure and medical malpractice payments.

As you can see, it takes quite a bit of specialized knowledge to carry out methodical healthcare background checks. It would take a healthcare employee hundreds of hours to research all the legal and financial issues around health care professional background checks. Hence, most healthcare facilities hire outside background check companies to conduct employee research.

[ Photo by: rosmary, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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