By Michael J. Sacopulos, JD

More than 80% of medical clinics have reported experiencing employee theft.

We read about it in the papers or see it on the news all too often.

It is employee theft, and if you think it can’t happen to you, you’re likely wrong or at least naïve.

More than 80% of medical clinics have reported experiencing employee theft, and this may be an underestimation as it only includes those physicians who have caught their employees stealing.

There are a multitude of ways that your employees may be stealing from you. Some involve cash, and others involve pilfering products or offering cut-rate services on the sneak tip with your products.

Cash is King

We are a credit card—soon to be smartphone—paying nation, yet a surprising number of patients are still using cash for procedures like Botox and laser skin rejuvenation—and even for surgeries.

Clinicians may be offering your patients a discount if they pay with cash behind your back and behind closed doors.

Or your employee could be taking the cash, then paying the amount with their credit card, thus cashing in on personal reward points. Meanwhile you’re stuck paying the credit card fees.

Another scenario: The employee could pocket the cash payments and charge the Botox, filler products, or services to someone else’s credit card.

“Some practices also have acronym names. People can write a check to those acronyms,” explains Jay A. Shorr, a managing partner at The Best Medical Business Solutions Inc in Sunrise, Fla. “There is nothing preventing someone from opening a business with that acronym and depositing those checks in their account.”

Stop Thief Tip 1: Use two-part receipts. Your office will keep the yellow one with the cash, paper-clipped to the slip. Compare these with the daily transaction and deletion report.

Pilfering Product

Staff members may be inappropriately using your office and its supplies for personal gain. They may oversell injections and hold some back, dilute product with saline, or directly steal. Next, they attempt to siphon your patients to their home by offering services at a discounted rate. How many times have you read about back-alley injections gone wrong? They have to get the product from somewhere!

Remember the last time you went to Wal-Mart and the computer rang up a different amount than what was labeled? After you alerted the cashier, they had blinked their light to call for the assistance of a customer service manager.

This measure, while annoying and time-consuming (especially to those waiting behind you in line) can prevent back-alley deals. If staff members just delete or modify product or patient injection/treatment records, you may never know what’s missing.

Stop Thief Tip 2: Consider restricting access to any modifications or deletions.

Also, be wary of front desk staff who are too familiar with suppliers. They may be having items shipped to the office, but paying from their own account and then using the supplies themselves.

Stop Thief Tip 3: Conduct random inventory audits and keep a limited stock. You can take it one step further by securing your inventory and jotting down units consumed per vial. Your electronic medical records software may well have the ability to help you track inventory.

Remember, most dishonest employees start small by testing the waters. If you notice ANY irregularity, investigate it thoroughly. By doing so, you are sending a clear message that you are having a zero-tolerance policy.

Read Between the Lines: Insurance Coverage for Theft

There are other ways to protect your practice from employee theft, including adequate insurance coverage.

Your standard office insurance policy may have anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 included for employee theft.

Michael SacopulosMichael J. Sacopulos, JD, is the CEO of Medical Risk Institute (MRI) and serves as General Counsel for Medical Justice Services. He is also the Legal Analyst for several national publications, including Plastic Surgery Practice. He may be reached via [email protected]

Expect to see the smaller limit of $10,000. The caveat is there may be a separate list for money and securities.

Terre Haute, Ind-based Old National Insurance Account Executive Russ Williamson recommends checking the broad form of the extension on your property coverage. He says it will have a list of 100 things you may never use, but one important thing to look for on this list is employee theft.

“You may also want to look at the limit, not only for cash on hand, but what they have access to in your bank account,” he says. Another related issue is computer fraud and computer liability. “The computer portion of employee theft is often times excluded, so you may need a cyber liability policy too.”