The COVID-19 pandemic initiated an unexpected and steep learning curve for all industries, but no sector was tested more severely than healthcare. The impact of coronavirus has been felt throughout every facet of the healthcare industry; the very industry that we all so heavily rely upon to bring coronavirus under control.
The reality of staff shortages, an unprecedented influx of critical patients, new safety protocols and immense pressure — not to mention personal health risks — resulted in the pandemic demanding complete operational agility within the healthcare industry. And, while healthcare workers around the world remained on the front line in the fight against COVID-19, healthcare employers and talent managers faced their own battle: attracting and retaining qualified medical staff to cope with the growing influx of patients.
However, with increased hiring comes increased risk for employers. The proportional nature of hiring means the increase in the number of healthcare job opportunities correlates with a surge in the number of fraudulent applications. Coupled with the fact that there has been an increase in professional migration with more and more people relocating for better opportunities with favourable financial returns, and the ideal environment for fraudulent applications has been created. This climate makes it risky for healthcare providers to hire at the size and scale needed to overcome existing workforce shortages.
Sunil Kumar, CEO of The DataFlow Group
The outbreak of the pandemic served to intensify existing healthcare talent shortages which pose a real risk to the continuity and quality of patient care. For example, the staffing crisis in the UK was highlighted by recent figures showing that there were over 110,000 NHS vacancies in England alone. To further compound this, non-urgent surgeries and services were postponed due to lockdowns and social distancing efforts, healthcare providers now find themselves wading through a backlog of delayed patient appointments and procedures. To use the NHS again as an example, recent findings estimate a backlog of 6.1 million patients who are on waiting lists for routine medical treatment.
It was clear that the most decisive element of overcoming these lapses in patient care would be the ability to hire and distribute healthcare talent in the geographies worst affected by the growing staff shortages. This remains a huge priority for healthcare providers and as the global economies continue to make moves towards recovering from the outbreak of the coronavirus, so too must the healthcare industry. This starts with the ability to hire international healthcare talent safe in the knowledge these professionals are qualified and competent.
An increase in fraud during the pandemic is not simply an implied expectation. We, at the DataFlow Group, having processed over two million verifications in the last five years have seen a growing trend for the forgery of professional documents during the pandemic. With the majority of our requests for Primary Source Verification (PSV) originating from within the healthcare industry, we reported an increase of 30 per cent in employment fraud rates during the first 12 months of the pandemic.
As of today, at the DataFlow Group, the forgery rate that we observe is at 2.5 per cent. Initially, this may not seem high, but considering that attractive healthcare roles receive hundreds of applications per vacancy which — in theory — have the potential to be hired and then could go on to treat the public, this statistic is a cause for serious concern.
The challenge posed by the environment that healthcare providers are operating within is significant: they need to be able to hire quickly, without any compromise of the integrity of the staff that they are hiring. With so many complexities to consider, adopting the right technology is crucial in order to overcome staffing shortage while ensuring only qualified, genuine healthcare professionals are onboarded into the workforce.
While PSV is in place to halt fraudulent applications, emerging technology lends itself towards expediting healthcare hiring. For example, solutions are already in place that host and store verified credentials on the Ethereum blockchain, to keep verified information incredibly secure. The very nature of blockchain lends itself for this purpose so that any acts of fraud such as tampering or amending of verified credentials will not go undetected. In addition, academic institutions are increasingly moving towards the adoption of digitised student records which facilitates faster, automated verifications and therefore weeds out fraudulent applications much more quickly.
Aside from the verification of professional information, which is unquestionably the most imperative element in mitigating risk, artificial intelligence (AI) technology can also play a huge role in the interview process within healthcare hiring. Particularly for assessing candidates being interviewed virtually, AI can detect untruths which can put a stop to fraudulent candidates from progressing to the next interview stage.
Ultimately, due to the methodical nature of recruitment processes, the next few years will see technology further infiltrate healthcare hiring, helping to further eliminate fraud and protect entire communities by ensuring that only the right candidates are hired.
Sunil Kumar is the CEO of The DataFlow Group, with over 25 years of experience and wealth of knowledge across operations, finance, cross-cultural team management and strategy