While it may be hard to imagine any of your employees or coworkers doing something criminal or dishonest, theft and embezzlement do occur at medical offices. In fact, a survey of 688 practice managers conducted by the Medical Group Management Association found that nearly 83 percent of medical practices had experienced employee theft at some point.
Here are three common ways crooked employees steal from medical practices:
- Theft of Cash: This typically occurs when patients hand cash to a practice’s receptionist to cover their copays and the receptionist diverts the money to his or her wallet rather than to the cash drawer.
- Diversion of Payments: Dishonest employees have been known to find various ways to divert payments from insurers and patients that should have gone into the practice’s account and conceal their thefts by making bookkeeping adjustments.
- Phantom Vendors: Crooked employees sometimes submit invoices from fake companies or for goods and services that were never delivered.
Take Preventive Measures
The best defense against medical office theft is to be proactive. You, or another physician, have to take responsibility for overseeing the practice’s finances. That should include reviewing the work done by the clerical staff, inspecting bank statements, and spot-checking deposits against receipts. Be sure to review cancelled checks, including endorsements.
Establish procedures for handling cash payments and to ensure they are properly accounted for. At the end of the day, make sure your cash amounts are in line with the number of transacted patient copays. Finally, review and approve all vendor invoices before they are paid. In addition, make it a requirement in your practice that all checks over a certain amount be signed by a physician.
Dividing money handling and reconciliation duties among two or more assistants can be an effective theft deterrent. If that is not feasible, require employees who deal with practice finances to take vacations.
We Can Help
We can help your practice incorporate proper internal controls in your billing, reimbursement, and accounts payable procedures to help reduce the potential for employee theft and embezzlement in your medical office.
For more information, please contact Bob Baldassari.