Healthcare organisations: are you background screening your employees?

Here are 3 reasons to consider starting immediately.

August 5, 2021

Many areas of risk can be identified in the healthcare industry, yet when was the last time you considered the risk related to your employees? Think about unqualified or sanctioned healthcare providers being allowed to practise medicine. Or, imagine healthcare workers with a violent criminal history having direct access to vulnerable patients.

Employee-related risk is real, especially in a region and an industry with little to no background checking standards. Here, are three big reasons why healthcare organisations should consider immediately starting a background checking  programme for all employees.

Protect vulnerable populations.

Negative media coverage of employee incidents throughout 2020 hit the healthcare industry hard. In Singapore, a nurse at a mental health institute who was supposed to take care of severely mentally ill patients, instead, was found to have sexually abused his patients and took compromising pictures of them. The news article, which did not disclose if the nurse was background checked prior to being hired, quoted a public prosecutor’s comments on the crime:

Nurses are at the heart of our healthcare system, he said, but the accused instead perpetrated “egregious abuse at a public hospital”, with his “despicable conduct” striking “at the very ethos of nursing” and threatening to “grossly taint and mar the efforts of healthcare workers everywhere”.1

Another area of heightened concern is nursing home facilities. According to a study published in June 2021 by the World Health Organization, 64 percent of staff at nursing home institutions, hospitals and other long-term care facilities self-reported some form of elder abuse. Reported abuse types include psychological abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Not surprisingly, the study suggests that elderly patients and residents with physical or mental impairments are the most vulnerable to being abused. 2

Before healthcare workers are given access to vulnerable populations, it is a critical best practise in the industry to perform thorough background checks on those employees. This includes everyone from surgeons, physicians and nurses to healthcare assistants, technicians and others who work directly with patients and might have unmonitored contact or access to patients and their medication.

Promote industry ethics and integrity.

Around the world, healthcare is generally viewed as a noble profession with its workers possessing the utmost ethics and integrity. However, sometimes a worker’s integrity is called into question, which can cause ripple effects throughout the organisation and the larger industry.

This year, a doctor in Singapore was suspended for five months for trying to sell an erectile dysfunction drug to a non-patient. What’s more, he also downloaded pornographic content onto computers at the clinic where he worked. It was not disclosed if the facility performed a pre-hire background check on the physician. In response, the Singapore Medical Council admitted that his behaviour “fell short of that expected of medical practitioners.”3

This incident and others like it jeopardise the ethics and integrity of the greater industry—not to mention the reputation of the healthcare facilities that employ these workers—and threaten an already tense relationship between patients and doctors. In fact, violence against doctors is becoming commonplace due to frustration with medical providers and disillusionment with the industry, to the point that it now has a name: yinao, which means medical disturbance.4

Background checks can help healthcare employers better understand the bigger picture of a candidate—the good, bad and ugly—beyond the sanitised image that’s often presented in a job interview. Global reputational media searches, social media searches, professional sanction searches and CV comparisons should be considered as best practises to thoroughly screen the backgrounds of medical professionals, as well as executive leadership charged with guiding the mission and strategy of a healthcare organisation.

Mitigate fraud risk.

The prevalence and high cost of fraud within the healthcare industry in Asia is a growing concern that was highlighted in recent news article regarding healthcare insurance fraud.

  • More than half the 815,000 medical institutes and pharmacies inspected in 2020 were found to have improperly or illegally used insurance funds.
  • Of the nearly 1,400 cases of medical insurance fraud that were investigated last year, 1,082 suspects were arrested and more than 400 million yuan in illegally disbursed funds was recovered. 5

The thousands of workers who perpetrate these and other fraud events may or may not go to prison for their crimes; however, they will likely seek future employment after being fired for the incident or released from jail. A simple criminal background check paired with a global reputational media search can help reveal a prior history of criminal fraudulent behaviour before they’re hired to work a similar job for another employer within the industry. It’s a quick, simple step in the hiring process that can help protect a healthcare organisation’s reputation—and its bottom line.

No matter the position, nearly every worker in the healthcare industry either has access to patients, their financial information or the drugs and devices used to support patient health. Knowing this, every employer in the healthcare industry should consider background check best practises for their healthcare workers based on the level of access they have to patients, products or sensitive personal or financial information. Learn more by downloading our Background Screening Solutions for Healthcare tip sheet.

 

Former IMH nurse gets jail and caning for sexual offences against patients, ex-colleagues – CNA (channelnewsasia.com)

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/doctor-suspended-for-5-months-for-trying-to-sell-erectile-dysfunction-drug-to-non

https://www.economist.com/china/2021/04/24/violence-against-doctors-in-china-is-commonplace

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202102/22/WS6032e8b5a31024ad0baaa072.html