Deterring Embezzlement

Imagine for a moment that a generous person placed $1,000 in cash on your desk as a gift, but with the gift came a warning: “There is a 50% chance that someone will swipe that money off your desk unless you put the cash away somewhere secure.” What would you do? Given the odds, you would put the gift away somewhere secure.

Let’s move away from a hypothetical situation to reality. Published statistics suggest that at least 50% of dentists will be experience embezzlement at least once during their careers. Do you have the appropriate safeguards in place to make it harder to embezzle from you and easier to detect if theft occurs? Implementing the steps recommended by Fluence is certainly a big part of the process of protecting your practice; however, the steps are not as effective if dentists do not take an active role.

One of the most important steps dentists can take is to make sure dust does not collect on daily reports. In a matter of minutes, you can ensure that bank and practice software deposit amounts match. You can review the beginning of the day schedule, compare it to the production report, and make sure all procedures were recorded. You can make sure the beginning accounts receivable balance matches the prior day’s ending balance. Finally, you can review the audit report. If you see deleted payments, appointments, or production, you need to understand why.

One of the most common reasons why embezzlement is detected is the dentist starts asking questions. You may notice an irregularity with a deleted transaction, deposit reports may not match, production you completed may not appear on the production report, or a patient may ask you about a billing irregularity. Review daily reports on a regular basis and ask questions about items you do not understand.

Next, instead of having all receivables management responsibilities with one person, separate the duties as much as possible. One person will post payments while someone else prepares the deposit slip and reconciles the end of day. Cross train the team by having them routinely handle different phases of receivables management process (e.g., posting payments, posting insurance checks, day end processing, billing, etc.). Cross training will make the team more efficient when people are on vacation—and be sure to require vacations.

Finally, put in tight controls regarding refunds and adjustments. Only issue refunds by check after you clearly understand the reason for the refund. Never permit credit card refunds. In addition, do not grant anyone the right to make deletions in your practice software; instead, only allow adjustments that you review daily.

While the statistics about embezzlement are highly troubling, the good news is you can implement measures to make it much harder to become a victim. If someone does embezzle from you, recommended safeguards will make it easier to detect the theft. Not only do you want to follow the steps recommend by Fluence, but you also need to take an active role to protect your practice.

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