The inherent nature of the work involved in the home health care industry makes it vulnerable to a number of exposures, including third-party crime. In fact, crime columns in local newspapers are increasingly carrying reports of small thefts and financial crimes committed by home care workers. Although there is no national system to track crimes against home health care patients, researchers speculate the reasons for the increase in home care crimes is due to high turnover in the industry, low wages, and easy access to people’s environment with very little or no supervision. Individuals have access to cash, jewelry (the number-one item fleeced) and other valuables in people’s homes that can be stolen by those with nefarious intentions. They can also gain access to a patient’s personal information for identity theft.
To minimize your organization’s exposure to third-party crime, there are several measures you should take when hiring caregivers, including:
- Conducting background checks on every home health care professional before hiring regardless of whether it is required by the state. Background checks are the most effective way to ensure that employees do not have a record that puts your business at risk. Be sure to review each state’s background check requirements and make certain that your organization’s policies comply with the law. This is a requirement if your organization wishes to participate in Medicare.
You may also want to supplement your state’s required background checks with primary source searches such as county criminal searches, which help ensure you are checking the latest and most accurate information publicly available. Also, several states require additional background checks after the initial one. Note that a background check represents a snapshot in time, and what you discover at the time of hiring may not be the same as what you see a year or two later down the road. Work with organizations that can provide you with background checks on your staff on an annual basis in order to minimize your risk and to protect your patients.
According to a report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on background checks and home health agencies (HHAs), 58% of organizations conducted periodic background checks after the date of hire. Of the HHAs that conducted periodic background checks, 44% conducted annual checks, and 25% of HHAs conducted checks more frequently than annually. Eleven percent of the HHAs that conducted periodic checks had terminated at least one employee based on the results of a periodic check.
- Performing reference checks. Check a candidate’s references and verify education and technical qualifications (if applicable). While some employers may be reluctant to provide details about previous employment, most will not hesitate to respond honestly to the question “would you hire them again?” Ask specific questions about what the person did from the business references he or she provides, and try to get a sense of the person (his or her integrity, honesty, passion for the work, etc.) from personal references.
- Implementing a strong orientation process. This helps new employees understand what the organization is about – what its values and principles are. It also defines the organization’s mission statement and scope of what the company does, the expectations of employees, and what the employee can expect of the company. Make clear in your employee handbook the policies and procedures of the organization, including when it comes to the wellbeing and safety of patients/clients.
- Knowing your employees. A deep understanding of a caregiver’s background is important because of the vulnerabilities of the patients. Talk to and get to know each person you employ.
In the event of the unfortunate incident of a third-party crime, depending on the situation, there is protection available under a home health care agency’s Professional Liability or Crime/Fidelity insurance policy. Claims may also involve allegations of negligence in hiring, screening, background checks, or supervision. As insurance specialists in the home health care sector, Manchester Specialty Programs can review in more detail the insurance coverage needed to address third-party crimes. We can also provide access and discounts to employment verification and criminal background check services for home health care providers. Just give us a call at 855.972.9399.