When the subject of embezzlement at physician practices comes up, often the focus is on elaborate schemes, misused credit or forgery. But while major cases tend to make headlines--such as the $1 million theft chronicled in a recent article from community newspaper Highlands Today--lax cash-handling policies are far more widespread and can put virtually any practice at risk.
"When it comes to money handling, you can never have too many fail-safe protocols in place," Physicians Practice blogger P.J. Cloud-Moulds wrote in a recent post. A simple six-step process can reduce employees' opportunities to walk away with or inappropriately "borrow" cash that belongs to your practice. In fact, cash theft is the second-most common embezzlement "scheme" among practices, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously.
Keep in mind, too, that smaller thefts are more likely to escalate the longer an individual's actions go unnoticed. The following steps outlined by Physicians Practice may seem obvious, but can be all too easy (and dangerous) to overlook:
- Ensure that two people count all cash
- Maintain a cash log and reconcile it against deposits monthly
- Have employees send a return receipt, such as by email, to the practice manager or administrator any time cash is received
- Set a limit for the amount of petty cash to be kept in the office
- Obtain receipts from the bank after deposits
- Compare practice account records to online banking information
Policies such as these are not a substitute for sound hiring decisions and fostering trust. Managers must remember, however, that all people are susceptible to temptation and that strong checks and balances make it easier for good employees to behave with honesty.