Ensuring Compliance: Healthcare Background Check Essentials for Employers


Whether you run healthcare or another business, your staff must understand the compliance standards you set. Those standards should be documented, and the document should be easily accessible to employees at all levels.

A thorough checklist will help your team stay on track and avoid exposing your company to risky situations and consequences like fines, reparations, or loss of accreditation.

Background Checks

Whether your healthcare facility is treating patients or helping clients stay healthy, hiring caregivers to assist in the process requires thorough vetting. With the growing number of medical malpractice cases, a bad hire can cause your organization significant harm.

For instance, a pediatrician’s office that hires a receptionist who appears on the national sex offender registry could lose its credibility and client trust.

The best way to weed out bad employees is by running a background check on all candidates. A background check can include criminal record checks, education verification, professional license verification, and employment verification. Some states even require fingerprint-based searches and specialized checks for certain positions, such as home health aides and nurses.

In addition, many regulated employers use searches that identify individuals on sanctions and exclusions lists, including child or elder abuse registries and global watch lists. While some businesses consider these additional searches unnecessary, they can provide crucial information that enables your organization to protect its patients and clients. The good news is that a trusted CRA can conduct all these searches for you. This can save you time and money and ensure compliance with applicable laws. It also makes the entire background-checking process seamless and efficient so you can focus on the business of caring for others.

Drug Screenings

Adding drug screenings to healthcare background check requirements ensures that employees can provide quality care in a clear-minded state. This is important for patient safety and compliance with the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and Medicare/Medicaid fraud prevention laws. Including drug screenings as part of the pre-hire process can also prevent the potential medical diversion of prescription drugs meant for patients.

A pre-hire drug test can be a urinalysis, breath, or saliva test that checks for the presence of illegal drugs and alcohol. A urine sample is the most commonly used method of testing for the five illicit drugs listed in the guidelines — marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). Some workplaces use hair or sweat samples, while others use expanded panel tests for additional substances.

To ensure an applicant’s positive test result is valid, the sample must be reviewed by a licensed medical doctor or certified drug examiner (MRO). The MRO ensures chain-of-custody and cross-checks with the applicant to ensure doctor-prescribed medications didn’t influence the results.

Regular drug testing is a standard policy in many workplaces, and it can be an effective way to deter employees from engaging in illegal drug use. Reasonable suspicion testing can be triggered by direct observation of erratic behavior, inability to perform routine tasks, or evidence of drug paraphernalia. Employees who test positive can be referred to EAPs or into treatment and may be subject to disciplinary action.

Criminal Record Checks

For healthcare professionals, they must deliver quality care; they must also be able to do so safely. Thorough criminal record checks are the best way to uncover dishonesty, poor performance, or risky behavior. They may also be necessary for compliance with the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which requires that a healthcare employer perform a national criminal history check on all new employees.

A healthcare background check should include the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Databank (HIPDB), which collect information about malpractice payments, disciplinary actions, licensure status, and more. It should also include a search of state and federal records, driving history, and a verification of professional licenses.

Drug screening is also a must, especially since many medical jobs involve direct contact with patients and access to potentially dangerous drugs. A continuous criminal monitoring search, which scans records 24/7 and notifies you of matches, is an excellent way to protect your employees and patients. Developing a comprehensive background check program that addresses these healthcare employment screening needs can require expert guidance. A trusted screening provider who understands the unique needs of healthcare employers can help you create a tailored check package that meets your legal requirements and enables you to hire the best talent. They can also provide expertise on various issues.

Reference Checks

Whether in a doctor’s office, hospital, or therapist’s office, employees in the healthcare industry care for vulnerable patients. As a result, their backgrounds are often more complicated than those of other industries and require more thorough investigations.

This makes it essential for healthcare facilities to develop an effective screening policy and train all HR staff in its use. Doing so reduces the risks of compliance issues and enables a fair, consistent screening process.

A background check for a medical employee should include national sex offender searches, criminal history checks, searches of federal and state sanctions and exclusion lists, education and employment verifications, and professional license verifications. A healthcare-specific background check provider should also be familiar with sanction screening, source-specific screening requirements, and guidance on employee background checks.

A comprehensive background check is a tool for reducing liability risk and ensuring patient safety and privacy. As a healthcare employer, you’re held accountable for the health and safety of your patients and must protect against negligent hiring claims. Considering the high cost of malpractice lawsuits and other legal action against companies in the healthcare industry, it’s worth ensuring your new hires have clean records and all the qualifications for the position.