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Background Screening Guide for The Healthcare Industry

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According to an annual Gallup poll, people believe the medical field contains more ethical professionals than any other field. Despite this implicit trust, the medical fields still contain huge potential for unprofessional or even illegal activity, including drug abuse, patient abuse and neglect, and fraudulent employment.

Information cited in an L.A. Times op-ed revealed that 10 to 15 percent of physicians abuse drugs or alcohol. Similarly, The Guardian recently reported on the prevalence of doctors with incomplete or fraudulent credentials. One professional in particular did not complete his medical training but saw over 3,000 patients in two years. What's more, elder abuse is unfortunately common in nursing homes. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, up to one in six residents may be abused or neglected every year. A single instance of abuse increases a patient's chance of death in the following three years by 300 percent. 

Mother with child at the doctor.
Medical professionals must adhere to high ethical standards.

Who should have a background check?

A thorough background check ensures the candidate in question has the right professional credentials for hire and doesn't have a criminal record suggesting he or she is ill-suited for the job. It's good for medical employers to screen candidates for positions that meet any of the following criteria:

  • Involves direct patient care. This includes doctors, nurses and home health aides.
  • Provides access to medical records. These documents are federally protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
  • Provides access to financial information or involves financial decisions. A history of fraud or embezzlement indicates a candidate is not suited for the position.

What should employers include in their background check?

"A good background check searches for a professional license and any criminal records."

A thorough background check for a healthcare position includes, at minimum, criminal background research and a professional license verification. Databases for review should include state abuse and neglect registries, state criminal history records, and national fingerprint-based criminal history records. Additionally, employers in the healthcare field should consider state abuse and neglect registries, Government Watch Lists and FACIS® searches.

In addition, certain occupations require medical board certification, which a professional license verification can identify. Interestingly, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards, 45 state offices conduct background checks on people applying for a new license. Additionally, 43 states have access to the FBI database. That said, a third party background screening service probably has access to a wider variety of background screening tools.

Depending on the state's legal requirements and restrictions, employers may also want to verify a candidate's education and conduct one or more drug screens, both immediate granting an offer and during the candidate's employment. Random drug testing helps confirm if professionals are abusing drugs or alcohol.

Need help screening applicants for healthcare positions? Orange Tree has access to numerous criminal records databases, can verify medical licenses and help you conduct drug testing. Contact us today.