Thorough background screening is a critical component of any successful healthcare talent acquisition program. It helps recruiting professionals and hiring managers develop complete pictures of candidates, and it keeps the organization in compliance with federal and state regulations. Healthcare employees must not only abide by regulations that apply to all employers—for example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)—but also those that apply specifically to healthcare, including regulations set by bodies such as Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and The Joint Commission.

Healthcare background checks reduce hiring risks and help you avoid making bad hires. They facilitate fully vetted hires, helping you avoid hiring individuals who are unqualified, have sanctions against healthcare employment, or have a criminal past that would make them ill-suited to work in a healthcare environment.

To conduct a thorough and compliant background check, healthcare employers should seek the most accurate and up-to-date information covering candidates’ criminal, educational, and employment history. Failing to do so can lead to reputational harm, put patients at risk, and lead to fines or loss of accreditation. Here are five things you should include in background screening for healthcare talent.

Criminal Records

A criminal record search is a core component of a thorough background check, and can include federal, state, and county database searches, as well as searches of registries (e.g., a sex offender registry). Because there is no one location in which you can find all criminal records for a person, getting an accurate and up-to-date picture of a person’s criminal past is not always as simple as conducting a criminal database records search. Depending on the situation, you may want to conduct actual court searches or supplement a criminal database search with a fingerprint records search. 

It is also important to note that, owing to legislation such as “Ban the Box” laws, many states have additional guidelines governing when you can conduct a criminal records search for job candidates. In New York, for example, the Fair Chance Act requires employers to wait until after a job offer has been made before making criminal record inquiries.

SSN Trace

Simply put, you need to be sure candidates are who they say they are and that all the information they’ve provided is full and complete. The SSN trace provides clarity by giving you more information about where a person has lived and what aliases they may have used. The trace reports all names and addresses associated with a social security number, as well as where the number was issued and if it is invalid.

The SSN trace can uncover information about your healthcare talent that might not have surfaced in a criminal records search or other search. By providing additional information about prior addresses or a maiden name, for example, the SSN trace can be used to connect the dots of a person’s background history. An SSN trace can be particularly useful in the healthcare industry because it can potentially uncover individuals who have provided a wrong SSN to hide medical debarments or revoked licenses. Conducting an SSN trace can also help you:

  • Identify individuals who have used different names in the past
  • Generate a more complete address history than what may have been provided by the candidate
  • Uncover individuals who may be using someone else’s SSN to hide criminal or fraudulent acts

Sanction Checks 

Because healthcare employers are prohibited from hiring individuals who appear on certain exclusion and debarment lists, it is critical to be sure your healthcare background screening includes sanction checks. Hiring someone who has been barred from working in healthcare can result in fines and even withdrawal of federal funding.

There are many databases and lists to include in a background check for new hires. In addition, because new names are added regularly, those lists must be monitored periodically for existing hires as well. Some examples of sanction lists to check during the pre-hire background check and on a periodic basis after hire include:

  • The GSA (General Services Administration) Excluded Parties List -  a list of individuals and firms excluded by Federal government agencies from receiving federal contracts, federally approved subcontracts, or other federal benefits
  • Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems (FACIS) - contains records of adverse actions taken against individuals in any healthcare position they've held
  • The Office of Inspector General (OIG) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) - lists individuals barred from working with employers who receive federal funding.
  • The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) - contains reports on medical malpractice payments and other adverse actions taken against health care practitioners.
  • State-Specific Registries, Excluded Party, Debarment and Sanction List searches

Employment and Educational Verifications 

There is no shortage of stories about organizations that have had to take action after discovering an employee didn’t possess the qualifications listed on their resume. It is never good to make such discoveries, especially after a person has been hired, but in a healthcare organization, an improper employment or education verification can result in more than reputational damage. It could put an unqualified practitioner in front of patients, creating the potential for misdiagnosis, improper prescription order, and more. In addition to offering protection to patients, conducting employment and educational verifications for healthcare talent delivers the following benefits to employers:

  • Validates the work experience and educational credentials presented by candidates during the application and interview process
  • Helps to confirm that candidates possess degrees from accredited institutions and not fictitious or “diploma mill” entities
  • Provides employers with certainty that individuals possess the minimum qualifications set by internal company policy—for example, a requirement that all nurses possess a minimum of three years of clinical experience

There is an important human component to conducting employment and educational verifications. They typically require contact with a person of authority at a former or current employer or educational institution. This can sometimes lead to delays because employment and educational contacts can sometimes be slow in returning calls or emails. Nevertheless, it is important to be sure that your background screening provider is taking the time to make enough verification attempts to gather the information required. A thorough verification process will include:

  • A sufficient number of verification attempts, sometimes more than the industry standard of three attempts
  • Verification with independently-identified and authorized sources (not a name or number provided by the candidate), such as an HR manager or school registrar, 


[INFOGRAPHIC] Key factors to consider when comparing background screening  service providers »

License Verification

Just as employment and education should be verified for all healthcare talent, the same is true for medical licenses. Medical licenses are unique in that their status can change over time. There are many different status categories for medical licenses, including active/valid, suspended, revoked, expired, or active with limitations. Therefore, license verifications should be conducted before hire and on a periodic basis during active employment. License verifications for healthcare talent should include:

  • A check to determine that candidates don’t have any expired licenses that are required for the role they will perform
  • Regular monitoring of employees’ license expiration dates
  • A search for any revoked licenses in any healthcare field, including areas in which the candidate may not currently work
  • A search for any disciplinary actions taken that affect an individual’s ongoing licensure

Successful Background Screening for Healthcare Talent

Background screening is important for new and existing hires in any industry. In healthcare, employers must take additional steps to remain in compliance and maintain a high standard of quality patient care. There are many different elements that make up a comprehensive background check, and when you include these five key components, you can be sure to get a more complete picture of candidates and their qualifications. Because regulations affecting the healthcare industry change on an ongoing basis, it is important to keep track of best practices in healthcare talent screening with the help of a trusted background screening provider.


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