Every new hire in the health care industry carries potential risk. The risk remains the same whether that new hire is a direct employee of the health care organization or an indirect employee such as a contract worker hired through a third-party vendor.
Any worker with a hidden history of professional or criminal misconduct threatens a health care organization’s compliance with regulators and ability to handle Medicaid and Medicare claims. A high-risk worker also endangers patient and employee safety and jeopardizes an organization’s brand reputation and legal standing.
A thorough background screening program limits high-risk individuals from employment within an organization. Yet in analyzing health care organization responses in the HireRight 2010 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, we found an alarming gap in employment screening between permanent employees and contract workers.
While all direct employees in health care organizations are screened according to the report, less than half of contingent workers are being screened pre-hire. For existing non-employee workers, the gap is even greater with only 13% being screened.
It is the responsibility of health care employers to ensure that any person who has access to patients or sensitive information is properly screened. To ensure that your health care temporary staff and vendors are screened correctly, consider these five recommendations.
1. Establish a background screening policy
It’s important to establish a background screening policy that covers contingent workers. The policy should outline the scope and frequency of required background checks. Consider screening pre-hire and then again annually if not more frequently. If you hire contract workers through an in-house human resources department, then be sure to screen all temporary personnel according to the policy’s stipulations.
When hiring contract workers through third-party vendors such as staffing agencies, mandate that the agency agree to your organization’s background screening policy in a contract. It’s also a good idea to list trusted background screening providers for the third party hiring company to choose from.
2. Get started with a flexible policy
It can take months, sometimes years, to perfect a background screening policy. If an organization tries to perfect the policy up front, it will have trouble even getting the process started. Instead of rolling-out a 100 percent perfect policy, get the screening policy prepared to a point where it’s workable and introduce it gradually. Some organizations will first apply the policy in select departments, then tweak the policy over time and eventually apply it enterprise-wide.
3. Partner with a provider who can streamline the process
Organizations with multiple background screening providers may experience variations in the depth and frequency of screenings. To consistently maintain a screening policy, it is recommended that health care organizations leverage a single background screening provider. With one trusted screening provider, a health care organization gains greater visibility and can more easily ensure that policy requirements are met. Using only one background screening provider also requires fewer resources from the health care organization’s human resources department.
4. Audit the background screening program
To remain compliant with organizations like the Joint Commission and Office of Inspector General (OIG), it is necessary for a health care organization to prove it has a background screening policy in place and that it is acting on that policy. It is therefore a best practice to audit background screening vendors to be sure they are upholding the exact requirements of the policy. When auditing a screening vendor, check that every contract worker is screened and that they are being screened according to the scope and frequency laid out in your organization’s policy.
5. Re-evaluate the background screening program
Critically re-evaluating a background screening program is another way to ensure that vendors are upholding policy and that the overall program is effective and efficient. It is recommended that organizations re-evaluate background screening programs annually against four criteria:
- Confirm that the organization is getting a return on the cost of outsourcing the screening process.
- Check for the quality and consistency of screening across employees and contract workers.
- Re-evaluate the turnaround time of the screening process to be sure that it is not slowing down or hindering hiring efforts.
- Check that the screening program remains compliant with regulations and your vendor programs are also compliant.
Free Report: Best Practices of Background Screening in the Health Care Industry
Learn additional employment background screening best practices for health care by downloading:
Best Practices: Background Screening in the Health Care Industry