Background Checks for Medical Professionals: Different Types Done By Various Facilities

A medical malpractice lawsuit or even just a single mistake by an employee could cost your hospital or medical practice dearly. That’s why a thorough background check is essential. Healthcare screening processes should include education verification, employment verification, and a national sex offender search. Alias searches should also be included in this part of the process.

Drug Screenings

In a world where a single mistake from a medical employee could result in death, your company has to be extra cautious about hiring the right people. Thankfully, a background check is an essential part of the process. Drug screenings are a common part of the process for many businesses, but they’re especially important in the healthcare industry. Your employees can access powerful prescription drugs that can be abused in the wrong hands.  A typical drug screening involves urine and hair follicle tests. These tests can identify commonly abused medications and metabolites, including codeine, opiates (including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and heroin), amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. Additionally, some screenings can detect the presence of impurities used to dilute or mask results.

Most employers use a full set of background checks to vet candidates for employment, but some abuse the process more frequently than others. The screenings can be more comprehensive for hospitals, specialty clinics, and private practice medical offices than in other industries. These screenings can include verifications that examine education, work history, professional licenses, and criminal and civil court records. Some medical companies may also conduct drug and alcohol testing on current employees to ensure a safe working environment. Companies can avoid unnecessary effort by using a third party like Sterling Check to complete the screening. 

Education/Employment Verification

A candidate’s background checks in healthcare must verify their education and professional credentials. It ensures that the person you hire is who they say they are and has the qualifications to perform the job. It also helps protect the practice from liability. Unfortunately, fraud and abuse in the medical field are not uncommon. Doctors with falsified degrees, nurses with drug convictions, and other healthcare employees with bad backgrounds can harm patients. They may expose patient information, commit identity theft, steal medication, or even sexually assault patients. Performing a background check on every new hire can help prevent these issues and safeguard patients’ safety.

As with other background checks, a medical background check should include state and federal criminal searches. It should also check the candidate’s employment history and verify their professional license. Lastly, it should conduct a FACIS search. This search is unique to the medical industry because it looks for individuals and entities excluded from federal healthcare programs, most notably Medicare and Medicaid. A background check can reveal all kinds of misdeeds. For example, a nurse with a history of drug use could overdose on powerful prescription drugs and put herself and her patients at risk. It can also uncover several issues involving civil litigation, sex offenses, and child abuse. In healthcare, these errors and abuses can have lifelong consequences for patients.

Criminal Background Checks

Most people associate background checks with doctors and nurses, but everyone in a hospital or medical office, from custodians to administrative assistants, should be screened thoroughly. It ensures that all employees place the same high value on patient safety and respect patient privacy and dignity. It also prevents healthcare workers with a history of mistreatment or abuse from being hired again. Most medical employment practices include criminal background checks as a normal step, and these checks should cover searches at the local, county, state, and federal levels. A national sex offender search is essential to any medical background check, as healthcare workers often come into contact with children. Not all states maintain sex offender registries. Therefore, a healthcare facility may need to use alternative techniques to verify if an employee has been convicted of a sex offense in another area.

The healthcare industry is heavily regulated and necessitates knowledge, wisdom, tact, and moral rectitude. Numerous states require healthcare facilities to conduct background checks on their staff since patients rely on the ability of healthcare experts to treat them. It helps ensure that only the most qualified candidates are hired, protecting the healthcare industry from malpractice lawsuits. A healthcare background check also verifies that an applicant holds valid professional licenses to work in the industry. It is another way that hospitals and medical offices can protect themselves from negligent hiring lawsuits.

Federal Exclusion Searches

For medical professionals and other regulated industries, ensuring that job candidates or current employees are not on one of several government employment-ban lists is more than just a good idea—it’s the law. For healthcare organizations that participate in federal programs like Medicare or Medicaid, it’s also a condition of participation. Hiring excluded individuals can lead to significant fines or even exclusion from the programs altogether. The principal source of exclusions from federal healthcare programs is the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE), although a few other sources can also result in federal exclusion. For example, state Medicaid exclusions and felony convictions for healthcare-related fraud or theft are reported to HHS-OIG, which may lead to federal exclusion. The National System for Award Management (SAM) database also contains information on contractors not allowed to do business with the government.

GHRR/ESS searches LEIE and other important primary sources for healthcare sanctions as part of comprehensive background checks. Depending on the position and applicable laws, these may include state Medicaid and Medicare exclusions, state medical boards’ sanctions, and misdemeanor convictions for prescribing or dispensing controlled substances or participating in unlawful kickback arrangements. Performing an OIG search before hiring a new employee, contracting with a vendor, or referring a patient is crucial. In addition to LEIE, an OIG background check should routinely search other healthcare- and government-related databases, including SAM, state Medicaid exclusions, and other federal sources.


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