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Compliance–a word that can make recruiters cringe! But love it or loathe it, if you work in a healthcare recruitment agency you can’t escape it. Medical credentialing is fundamental to any recruitment process involving health and social care professionals and although recruiters have responsibilities for managing candidates, it is compliance managers and their teams who are the true credentialing heroes.

It’s a simple fact; credentialing errors can have a major impact on your business. A comprehensive and well-designed approach to healthcare compliance can deliver tremendous benefits. There are so many rules to follow, and so many things that you can accidentally miss. Even a slight oversight could impact your audit score, which could mean your recruitment agency is no longer approved by a particular Framework and you’re unable to place candidates with certain NHS Trusts

It’s a jungle out there, and the world of credentialing can definitely be a scary place. But don’t worry, you’re not alone and the good news is there are things you can do to avoid mistakes happening.

With all the regulatory changes going on in the last few years, it can be easy to lose track of things and for errors to happen. We all want to protect our business and make sure that we’re doing everything by the book, but it can be difficult to remember everything, right?

Before diving into the top five compliance mistakes that you can make, let’s outline what medical credentialling is and why it’s important to ensure compliance with specific regulations.

What is medical credentialing?

Credentialing compliance ensures that healthcare providers meet a multitude of regulatory guidelines and standards. In today’s regulatory environment, it is critical for healthcare recruitment agencies to have an efficient and robust compliance management system in place. It helps to protect the business, safeguard patient safety and to ensure the accuracy and the reliability of its procedural systems. It helps to create a compliance culture throughout the business.

Compliance Management involves managing compliance risk, reputational risk, transactional risk and various operational risks, with documents and controls. Terms like fraud, abuse, best practices, credentials… can be confusing and overwhelming to navigate for those unfamiliar with medical credentialling

Recruitment is full of challenges but getting it right when it comes to compliance can have big impact on the success or failure of a business. It’s the role of compliance managers and teams to ensure that the foundation of recruitment is being built in a fair and legal way. They make sure a business makes all the right decisions when it comes to the recruitment of temporary or permanent health and social care workers. Without highly skilled compliance professionals and robust systems and processes in place, medical credentialing can be a minefield to navigate successfully and expose the business to great risk.

Why is medical credentialing so important?

Medical credentialing isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been over 150 years since the Medical Act of 1858, made medical education compulsory for all doctors in the UK – frighteningly, up until this time there was little or no formal regulation on who could give medical advice.

It may seem crazy in the highly regulated world we live in now, but it wasn’t until this time that the General Medical Council (GMC) was formed to make sure that all those claiming to be doctors were actually qualified to practice. Shortly after the GMC was established, the first doctor was struck off the register for not being qualified and the first hearing was held in 1899, where a doctor faced conviction of “drunkenness”.

Fortunately, times have changed and in 2014, only a small number of the c.300,000 registered doctors in the UK were erased or suspended from the medical register. However, it’s important to note that the most common type of case heard by the GMC in that year was dishonesty, either in order to obtain or keep employment or in the role of a doctor. In a recent case, a doctor was jailed for lying on his CV after claiming to be a member of the GMC, in order to secure a role at a medical research center.

Thankfully, this type of fraud isn’t common. But the pressure on compliance managers to demonstrate that compliance processes and procedures have been followed to the letter is a heavy weight to bear.

Who needs to have their credentials checked?

In addition to the thousands of health and social care professionals working in the private sector, in September 2020 there were 689,7436 professionally qualified clinical staff7 working in the NHS Hospital and Community Health Service. Before starting a new role, they all need to have their credentials checked and verified – that’s a lot of people and a lot of room for error.

Compliance managers and their teams have a busy job at the best of times. They need to be kept up to date with constantly changing legislation, updating processes

It’s fair to say, everyone makes mistakes. But when it comes to medical credentialing, the consequences of non-compliance can be disastrous.

However, there are a couple of common compliance mistakes that can easily be avoided. These are important lessons that will help keep your healthcare staffing agency out in front of potential liability issues. If you’re not already aware of them, use them as a reminder for your staff and give this blog post to your management team, so they know what they need to do to avoid the same bad situations others have found themselves in.

Compliance is a lengthy and time consuming process. Outsource it to a trusted ORS partner like IMS People

Top 5 common compliance mistakes and how to overcome them.

1. Not knowing your candidate – this may seem like an obvious one but taking a methodical approach to examining candidate documentation and the information they provide you with is vital to make their file compliant.

Building rapport and communication are the key to your success. Candidates may not always be aware of the necessary checks you are required to carry to comply with the demands of regulations governing the employment of health and social care employees. Early on in the process, it’s essential to explain what documents you need from the candidate, together with an explanation about why you need certain documents, to help avoid delays and improve candidate understanding of the process.

2. Asking for documents you’ve already received – not having robust processes and systems in place can cause inefficient work practices, leading to time being wasted and candidates losing confidence in the recruitment agency. Doubling up on work by asking for documents that have already been received is not only annoying for the candidate, but it also wastes precious time in the recruitment process.

One way of overcoming this is by using technology to keep track of documents – particularly any outstanding documents – which may be a barrier to the candidate starting a new role. For compliance officers, any tools that help them to track outstanding documentation requests will improve outcomes for the candidate and the recruitment agency.

3. Being unclear about document requirements – with so many regulated professions, all with their own set standards of competence and conduct, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with document requirements. Under current statutory healthcare regulation, there are 32 occupations governed by a regulator. This includes doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, opticians, and osteopaths – to name a few – who all need to prove they are fully qualified to practice in their field of work before they start a new role.

As well as healthcare regulators, the NHS Employment Checking Standards and the NHS Framework Regulations also have their own strict set of standards and requirements. That’s a lot of regulators, a lot of different standards, a lot of documents – and a lot of room for error.

Compliance managers play a critical role in making sure compliance officers receive regular training about the latest standards, frameworks, and regulatory obligations. This helps avoid requesting unnecessary or incorrect documents, or not obtaining key information, all of which can delay the candidate starting a role. Getting it right first time improves candidate experience, as well as saving your agency time and money.

4. Documents expiring during a placement – It’s important to remember, the job of a compliance officer doesn’t stop when a candidate is placed. Once the initial compliance process has been completed, it’s crucial to keep tracking expiry dates of key documents, such as the candidate’s Visa, DBS, and mandatory training requirements. Failure to keep on top of this could lead to candidates being pulled from their placements, affecting the continuity of patient care, and for the agencies, not fulfilling their commitment to the NHS and contracts with the Frameworks.

Ongoing training is essential. Compliance managers can use team meetings and updates to reinforce the importance of checking expiration dates and using tools, such as the CRM system, to set reminders for follow-up communication with candidates. Identifying documents that are due to expire means candidates can be notified well in advance, so documents can be renewed before their expiration date.

5. Inaccurate data entry – in today’s fast-paced, busy work environment mistakes happen. Being distracted for even a split second can lead to a lapse in concentration and the wrong information being added to the organisation’s CRM.

For compliance managers, building a compliance team that has a high attention to detail is crucial. Embedding best practices and techniques for avoiding data entry errors, such as double-checking entries before submitting candidate details, can help improve error rates.

There’s no doubt that healthcare recruitment agencies are taking serious measures to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements. No one sets out to ignore credentialing rules and regulations or to promote bad practices, but as good compliance managers know only too well, lax attitudes to compliance can have serious consequences.

By keeping up to date with the latest compliance rules and regulations and avoiding these common medical credentialing mistakes, it will help protect the reputation of your recruitment agency and ensure patient safety.