Oral Health Group

Most dental practices will encounter fraud


By Robert Selleck, January 17, 2012 – Dental Tribune America

LITTLETON, Colo., USA: The potential for embezzlement and theft is a problem no business is immune to. And research shows that smaller businesses are more likely to experience problems than larger ones. For dental practice owners, it’s not just being small that increases risk. The typical dental office management structure is inherently vulnerable to fraud, according to dental-practice fraud expert David Harris. Adding to the challenge, Harris said, detection can be trickier in a dental practice compared with other small businesses. And the bad news continues: Harris, who has 20 years of experience in dental-practice fraud investigation, puts little stock in deterrence. Instead he emphasizes early detection as the only viable defense. He shared those thoughts and more with Dental Tribune.

Robert Selleck: What is the likelihood of a dental office experiencing fraud?
David Harris: There have been several studies by the American Dental Association and others. Collectively they suggest that the probability of a dentist being a fraud victim in his or her career is between 50 and 60 percent. However, such statistics are necessarily low because there is an unquantifiable amount of fraud that is never detected or is detected but not disclosed.

Are there any reasons why dental practices would be more likely or less likely than other types of small businesses to experience fraud?
Two main points influence the prevalence of fraud in dentistry. First, the clinical responsibilities carried by dentists effectively reduce them to being absentee owners in their own businesses. Second, the fact that so much of dentistry is paid for by third parties removes one of the most basic controls that businesses depend on.

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