Background checks in hiring are sometimes confused with reference checks. While both are important, the differences between the two are critical to understand.

Reference checks involve conversing directly with a candidate’s former bosses and coworkers. It’s a subjective process that provides insight into a prospective employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Checking references helps you learn how well a candidate’s self-perception matches that of former bosses and colleagues. It can validate (or refute) key narratives shared by candidates, such as how and why they left their former job and what their work style is like.

Background checks, on the other hand, deal with purely factual aspects of a candidate’s record. For example, did they earn the degree they claimed? Is the stated employment history accurate? And what about legal scrapes – is the candidate’s background free of convictions or sanctions that disqualify them from working in healthcare?

There’s no escaping the time required to contact references directly, but technology has significantly streamlined background checking. With automated online fact-checking services, checks that once required numerous phone calls and faxes can now be done more quickly, completely, and reliably, at much lower cost.

Background checks offer peace of mind in any hiring situation, but they’re even more essential in healthcare. For physicians and non-physician providers, verifying credentials and licenses is, of course, mandatory for patient safety and to avoid liability. HIPAA also requires care be taken to protect patient information; with medical identity theft on the rise, too, careful hiring is critical for every role in healthcare. Detailed background checks may even help protect against embezzlement – an all-too-common crime in medical practices. Technology can help you perform these crucial checks more quickly, thoroughly, and easily – usually for less than a few hundred dollars.

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