Economic change over the past several years has affected the way dentists practice. Some are discounting fees, working later hours, and even running their practice with less employees all in an effort to remain profitable and keep the doors open. Many doctors are so overwhelmed with the pressure that comes along with these changes and depend heavily on their team to take care of the administrative duties they should be performing themselves. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to fraud and embezzlement.
“Listen, my team has been with me for 10 years and I trust them implicitly. I have never been given a reason to think that anyone was stealing from me.”
Certainly, I am not suggesting that anyone in your practice is attempting to embezzle or defraud you. The truth of the matter is that most of the people working in dental practices are good, hardworking, people. The fact of the matter is that today’s economy has put many people in serious financial hardship. Situations such as debt and divorce leave some feeling forced to do desperate things.
A study by Marquette International determined that embezzling employees were more likely:
- Female (64%)
- Working in finance, bookkeeping or accounting (66%)
Acting alone (84%)
They also discovered that the average amount an embezzling employee takes per month is just over $17,000!
How do you protect yourself? Here are a few ways:
- Use practice management software that allows you to assign team members passwords, tracks all activities, and lets you control how much access each team member has to specific information and tasks. Should Sally in sterilization really be able to delete payments?
- Every team member has a unique password - assigned by the dentist and changed at least once every 6 months. Don’t use personal information to create a password. If Kelly’s dog’s name is skip - don’t use skip123. Use random letters numbers or a combination. Inform each team member that their password must not be shared. They must log out of computers that are not in their immediate use. They should also be told they will be held fully accountable for anything that occurs under that password. This should be the number one golden rule - never to be broken.
- Separate the financial duties of your team members. One person should not be assigned to opening mail, posting payments, making deposits, and writing refund checks. The person posting payments should not also be making your deposits. If you have someone paying your bills, they should not be writing out the checks and mailing them too. This reinforces your checks and balances and prevents nefarious activity from being hidden.
- Regularly run tracking and audit reports from your practice management software. Checking your deleted items report regularly will keep you alert to what is happening financially in your practice. Make sure that you do this yourself and that you are the only person able to run and clear those reports. Put it on your personal schedule so that you are reminded to do it routinely - once every two weeks or even once a month keeps the report a manageable size so you don’t get bored and give up ½ way through it.
- Review your end of day report. Every day - for that day. Make sure the totals match your bank deposit slip and credit card batch reports. Then match those to your bank statements, merchant card statements, etc. Do this every month! But don’t stop there. Randomly compare previous months end of day reports what is actually in your computer. Pull a daysheet from last month and look at the transactions. For example: Mrs. Jones had 2 composites and two crowns done at her last appointment. Now pull up Mrs. Jones services in the computer. Do the transactions on the end of day match what the computer says? If not, this is a BIG red flag. Make sure that at the end of the month you perform the month close operation. At the end of the year, perform your year-end operation. Doing so in a timely manner makes changing previous transactions extremely difficult if not impossible.
- Finally - have a good relationship with your accountant. Meet with them quarterly and discuss any changes in procedure or unusual trends they may have noticed with regards to your deposits, spending, etc. Have they been dealing with the same team member for years? It may be time to switch that up. Keep in mind that you are not your accountant’s only client and staying on top of your practice’s finances is ultimately your responsibility.
If you do find suspicious activity - notify your accountant immediately. Do not confront any team member until you and your attorney feel you have sufficient proof. Once you have that proof, contact the police. The worst thing you can do is quietly fire an employee that has stolen from you and “let the next guy deal with them.” Seize the opportunity to help a fellow dentist and keep them from making the same mistakes.
Technology and Integration Specialist