Background (including Criminal) Checks for Private, Independent Advocates

This information has been developed with the help of private investigator, Jean Mignolet.
(Learn more about Jean’s work. In addition, Jean was a guest expert for our APHA call-in, A Gumshoe Takes on Patient Advocacy, and You Can Too. Find the podcast and resources here.)

As the profession of health and patient advocacy continues to evolve, and with its emphases on the importance of ethics and client allegiance, it is incumbent upon us to take advantage of every opportunity to “prove” our own dedication to those concepts.

In mid-2017, the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB) recommended that all private advocates should undergo a background check, then share the results publicly as one way to showcase their trustworthiness.

In 2018, APHA announced it would now allow the results of a background check to meet one requirement needed to appear in the AdvoConnection Directory.

This article is intended to help you learn about, obtain, and report, the results of a criminal or other form of background check.
  • Why would potential clients be interested in the results of my background check?

Potential clients (patients and caregivers) are seeking someone to help them with two of the most important and personal aspects of their lives: their health and their money (financial security.) If they don’t know you, or don’t know someone you’ve worked with previously, then how can they know they can trust you? The quick answer is – they don’t. So they will look for clues that you are trustworthy.

Clean results from a background check can provide some peace of mind that you are worthy of their trust.

  • What is included in a background check? What results are included in a report?

Different background checks will yield different results. They may include the following:

  • Confirmation that an advocate is bonded
  • Confirmation that an advocate is current with Errors & Omissions or liability insurance
  • Education (completed degrees, courses)
  • Prior employment verification and references
  • Other professional license verifications
  • Local, state and federal criminal and civil search results
  • Results of review of sex offense registries
  • Judgments & liens
  • Social and regular media and blogs
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Attorney General consumer complaints
  • There may be additional checks done. Ask the person doing your check if others would be useful.

  • Are there any downsides to having a background check?

Only if you have something to hide. For example, if you were a former addict or had been fired from a hospital, those aspects of your life would be revealed. If you know there may be background issues, you’ll want to explain them beforehand to decrease the cost of the background due diligence.

  • Who performs this sort of check and how do I find them?

Any licensed private investigator in the state where you reside can conduct this check for you.

To find the person to help you, do a web search: “private investigator, background check, [your state]” and you should come up with a good list of possibilities. Then double check the following before you commit. (These do not need to be handled in order.)

  • 1. Confirm their license. You can do this by doing a web search similar to the one you’ve done to find an investigator, but using “private investigator, [your state], verify license “ You should be able to find a link to a licensee lookup system for your state. If you have already spoken with the investigator, then you can ask them for their license number to use in the look-up. If not, you’ll need to use their name.
  • 2. Ask for answers to these basic questions (by phone or email):

a. What do you include in your check?
b. How long does it take?
c. How much will you charge? (This will probably start a conversation about what checks you want to include.)
d. If you want to renew it next year, what is the cost to update it?

  • How much does it cost to get a background check?

Costs depend on a number of factors, such as how in-depth the searches are and where an advocate lives. Each jurisdiction has different pricing and some records are not available unless a release is signed.

The minimum cost for a reasonably comprehensive background investigation by a licensed investigator is about $200 if the person has resided in one place and has a minimal educational and employment history.

The more aspects of an advocates life that are checked, the higher the price, of course.

  • Does APHA recommend any specific individuals or businesses to perform background checks?

No, not at this time.

  • OK – my background check is complete. Now what do I do with the results?

Share them with potential clients in hopes it will provide some peace of mind as to your trustworthiness.

Here are some ways to share them:

  • On your website: post the results, or invite site visitors to request a copy.
  • On the checkbox on your AdvoConnection Directory profile
  • On your printed marketing materials:  “Background Check Report Available”
  • During a first meeting with a client or influencer, provide a copy of the results.
  • You may think of other ways to share the results, too.

  • Once I’ve had this check done, will I need to do it again?

As with any licensed profession, a background check should be conducted yearly. Even to get your car insurance, the insurance industry runs your driving as well as your credit history.

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