August 24th, 2022 | Sterling

5 Common Myths About Healthcare Background Screening

Although the importance of conducting thorough background screening is clear, it can be both complicated and confusing due to misconceptions and ever-changing regulations. In this blog, we’ll cover 5 common healthcare background screening myths and provide some clarity around this important process.

You can also watch a short 5-minute video on these myths here.

Myth #1. Conducting an OIG/GSA Check Meets CMS Requirements for Sanctions and Exclusions Screening

When a healthcare professional’s license is revoked, which is the most common kind of exclusion by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), it occurs at the state level. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), any provider who is excluded in one state should be excluded in all states. However, there is no national database that tracks license verifications. You should consider running a more robust search that includes state Medicaid sanction lists, such as FACIS Level 1M or FACIS Level 3.

Myth #2. Doing an Enhanced Nationwide Search, or Searching the National Criminal Database, is a Sufficient Criminal Search

It’s important to note that a single national database containing all the criminal records in the United States does not exist. Records are actually housed by county, state, and federal courts. To add to that, courts manage these records differently in different jurisdictions. There are commercial databases that piece together the information like the Enhanced Nationwide or National Criminal Database, but they tend to have many gaps and don’t cover every state. These databases should only be used as locator tools in conjunction with a Social Security Number (SSN) Trace to uncover where a candidate might have been convicted of a crime. Following that, a County Criminal search can be used to pull the conviction records at the primary source.

Sterling’s criminal background check solutions leverages SSN Trace, Enhanced Nationwide Criminal Database, and Locator Select to uncover tens of thousands of more criminal records than instant database searches alone, enabling us to cast a wider net and identify the most likely places to search for county criminal records in a criminal background check.

Myth #3. If a State Has Legalized Marijuana for Recreational or Medical Use, You Must Exclude it From Any Applicant or Employee Drug Testing

Just because the state has legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use, it does not mean you can’t test for it. No state or federal law prevents healthcare organizations from requiring that their employees are not under the effects of any substance while they are working. However, since the legal protection for employees using marijuana varies quite a bit from state to state, it’s important to understand the latest laws on medical marijuana and work with your legal counsel to have a clear policy in place for your organization.

This recent Sterling blog covers ways compliance teams can help create a cannabis drug policy for their organization.

Myth #4. Reviewing the Physical Copy of an Individual’s License is Considered a Primary Source Verification

While it’s understandable that a license itself would seem as much of a primary source as you can get, you can’t tell from looking at the license if it is still in good standing. A license could have been revoked, suspended, or the candidate could be facing sanctions, exclusions, or disciplinary actions. This is unfortunately much more common and it’s not always a result of medical malpractice. Other reasons a license could be suspended include the candidate not paying their tuition or even child support. To identify the primary source, you or your screening provider can find the most up to date information on the board’s website.

Myth #5. It is Not Possible to Continuously Monitor the Status of Board-issued Licenses

Trying to monitor license statuses manually on a daily or weekly basis might not be feasible, but with advances in technology that can automate the process, it can become a reality. Sterling’s Medical License Monitoring solution tracks medical licensing board websites, data feeds, and other sources to identify changes to license statuses as they occur. That way, not only can you reduce your organization’s risk and administrative burden, you can also react to changes right away vs. in weeks or months.


Healthcare organizations don’t have to bear the weight of managing these background screening requirements on their own. By working with a trusted provider that offers healthcare-specific solutions and deep market expertise, employers can feel confident in making informed hiring decisions while staying compliant.    Learn more about Sterling’s healthcare background check & screening solutions.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.