Dental Risk Management: Office Theft And How You Can Prevent It

The reception desk at a dental office, where some unexpected dental risk management issues begin

Front office issues can play an important role in your dental risk management practices.

Dentists often allow their staff off-site internet access to your office computer opens the door for internet theft.  From a dental risk management perspective, it also can be problematic, when the employee quits or is terminated.  Complete patient information is often downloaded, which permits “poaching” once the staff member is gone. Here’s a dental real-life risk management case study and what you can do to prevent a similar headache.

Dental Malpractice Case Study:

Dentist:  General dentist with two offices.

Situation:   Because of the dual locations, each staff member was given unlimited access to the unified computer system through LogMeIn.  The thought process was to allow anyone to update progress notes and check schedules after hours using their personal computers.

The dentist-owner noticed that his income was declining, while production remained steady.  He retained a consultant for an overall office tune-up.  This outside professional discovered that one hygienist (paid 35% of collections) was transferring intra-office funds.

Here is an example.  Suppose a patient presented for a $200 prophy (performed by the hygienist) and a $1,000 crown (performed by the dentist).  Normally, she would receive 35% of $200, or $70.  Once all money was received (whether paid by insurance and/or the patient) for both services, the hygienist remotely would transfer all or most of the crown fee from the dentist to her.  Through LogMeIn and from her home, she would elevate her prophy fee to say $900 and decrease the crown fee to say $300.  Because the patient balance was zero, no one retroactively checked this account for billing discrepancies.  She used this devious method only for patients where (a) she provided hygiene services, and (b) all fees were paid. 

Dental Risk Management Takeaways:

Pointers:  One common denominator for all dental office theft is the dentist’s inattention to the books.  I routinely am surprised by how infrequently owners verify the office accounts.  In some instances, a more brazen, dishonest staff member casually will ask the dentist beforehand how often s/he reviews the financials before beginning to embezzle.

Most software packages allow access to be limited, not only to certain personnel but also to specific functions.  Thus, assistants and hygienists can be restricted to the progress notes only.

Another check and balance is the number of times an employee uses LogMeIn.  If you find that a certain individual logs in much more frequently than other members of your dental staff, be on alert.

In sum, (1) always review your books at least monthly, if not more frequently, (2) restrict the number of employees who have unlimited access to all records, and (3) check to see how often the staff logs in remotely, especially in comparison to the other staff members.

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