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Safety first: New continuous background check service targets home health, nursing home employees

December 11, 2012 3:59 pm by | 0 Comments

As the aging population creates more demand for long-term care and home health services, bringing down costs is a top priority.

But another concern that should be top of mind, according to health IT company SafeCare LLC, is the safety of patients living in nursing homes or receiving home health care. The Cleveland-based startup works with these facilities to automate the process of running regular, comprehensive background checks on their employees.

CEO Lissette Rivera talked particularly about nurse aides, or CNAs — a specific population of workers that was studied in a recent analysis from the Office of Inspector General. In 2010 alone, more than 1,600 nurse aides in the U.S. were disciplined for abuse, neglect or misappropriation of property.

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Long-term care facilities must report any verified cases of abuse, neglect or misappropriate of resident property to its home state’s Department of Health, which maintains a public Nurse Aide Registry. Anyone on a registry cannot be employed as a nurse aide.

The problem is that most facilities conduct background checks only once before hiring an employee, and only in the potential employee’s current state of residence. Rivera noted that nurse aides are often transient workers who may move frequently or hold more than one job at a time, so that background check isn’t necessarily giving facilities the whole picture.

State registries also don’t include information about potential employees’ criminal histories. Although a criminal conviction doesn’t by law disqualify someone from being able to work as a nurse aide, the OIG report suggests that workers with criminal records were more likely to commit nursing home abuse.

Nearly one in five nurse aides whose name appeared on at least one state’s Nurse Aide Registry in 2010 also had at least one prior criminal conviction on his or her record prior.  Most of those crimes were against property – burglary, shoplifting or writing bad checks – but 14 percent of them were crimes against people. According to OIG, 92 percent of nursing home facilities employed at least one individual with at least one criminal conviction (PDF).

Rivera said the purpose of SafeCare is to give employers more information to support their employee choices and conduct thorough job interviews. Its B2B service is considered a consumer reporting agency and is compliant with the law. There’s also a consumer portal, which Rivera calls the “Carfax for healthcare,” where people can run a quick background checks on care providers.

The company’s platform scours data from nationwide criminal record databases and individual state department of health public records – databases that typically don’t talk to each other, Rivera said – to ensure that care facilities are getting a thorough look at potential and current employees.

SafeCare’s platform is currently in place at four independently owned long-term care facilities, and a demo version is running at a client with six facilities. Rivera said the next step is to bring on more clients, specifically privately owned home care agencies that are not federally funded or subject to federal regulations around background checks.

Rivera said she also sees applications for this technology in other sectors. The trucking industry, for example, employs transient workers that frequently cross state lines.

The company was founded in January of 2012 and is a part of Bizdom, a non-profit accelerator established by Midwest business mogul Dan Gilbert. Last month, it was awarded a $50,000 grant from Lorain Community College’s Innovation Fund.

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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