Safeguarding dental & medical practices with a risk management plan

Scott Beard

Establish safeguards

Fraudulent activities can be devastating for a business. Identifying potential issues, prioritizing how to address them and creating a contingency plan for each circumstance can help alleviate negative impacts and deter fraud. Take a detailed inventory of patient records, office supplies and computer and medical equipment, and then consider what safeguards should be in place. For equipment such as a laptop or camera, create a system to record when an employee checks out and returns the item. Consider installing secure keypad access systems on doors where inventory is stored. Patients and other visitors should never be granted unsupervised access to supplies or areas where paper or electronic records are maintained.

To prevent financial fraud, segregation of duties is vital. In many smaller offices, one staff member may be in charge of bookkeeping. It is prudent for multiple individuals to understand the bookkeeping process and to have these employees periodically check payment records. Ideally, the practice should have separate employees responsible for opening mail, receiving cash and check payments as well as recording payments. Having more than one individual manage these tasks helps reduce the likelihood of an employee acting improperly and ensures accountability.

Additionally, a practice can work with their bank to implement safeguard systems. Accounts should be monitored regularly for unusual or suspicious activity.

For online servers and databases, implement measures to protect assets such as electronic medical records, email correspondence and payment systems. Practice owners need to have adequate firewalls and updated protection software installed. All computers and external databases should be password protected and encrypted, with limited access to secure records and information.

These combined security measures will be critical to a practice’s long-term viability.

Implement risk management plan

After identifying areas of risk and assets that require safeguarding, practitioners should evaluate current policies and develop a plan that can be integrated into operations. Clear, written company policies on cash handling, contract execution and management should be included in the plan as well as standards for employee background checks and training. A good risk management plan should address who will manage the systems for controlling assets and what to do in case of an unexpected crisis. Owners should establish a policy for annual review of the plan where updates can be made as needed.

Risk management is crucial to the success of any dental or health care practice. Many adverse occurrences can be prevented through proper planning and implementation of policies and procedures to safeguard the practice and mitigate any negative events in the future.

Scott Beard is executive vice president and director of health care lending at Pacific Continental Bank. He can be reached at

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