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Business Asia Pacific

Apr 26, 2010 | Business Asia Pacific

Interview: 'Dentists should be more involved in their business'

by Daniel Zimmermann, DTI

Teresa Duncan is the President of Odyssee Management, a medical consulting company based in Alexandria, USA. As part of the LET’S TALK BUSINESS seminar at IDEM 2010 in Singapore, she held a lecture on embezzlement and fraud in dentistry. Dental Tribune Online spoke with Ms Duncan about this issue and what dentists can do for prevention.

DT Online: Ms Duncan, fraud and embezzlement seem to be a common thing in dental practices.
Teresa Duncan: Yes, I think the instances of embezzlement are definitely on the rise. Even before the recession hit our economy approximately one third of dentists in the US had experienced some form of embezzlement. There is a new report coming out soon and I am curious to see the results. I expect the numbers to be even higher because I am constantly getting calls from new clients.

In your lecture today you will also talk about case studies in Asia. Did you notice any major differences to the US?
Even in Asia the number is high though they are not as large as in the United States. This shows me that there are a lot more checks and balances here or at least higher awareness of the problem. The main difference is the form of embezzlement, for example, when cash is stolen. Embezzlers in the US are more careful in that respect.

In most Asian countries, reporting is also not as common as in the States. Many of these cases are rather handled in-house. In addition, embezzlers are also able to move between the jobs very easily.

I hope that with Singapore’s economy recovering so quickly, cases will go down.

What are the most common methods of embezzlement?
The most common method is to steal cheques and deposit them on one’s own account. In many cases, cash is also taken from the patient but not recorded in the practice management system.

The common theme of all these things is that the dentists are not aware of the reports that they could be running or is not paying too much attention to the business side of their profession. So they do not realise what’s happening under their nose. I often hear from clients that they produce like crazy but there is not even money left to cover the payroll.

What are your recommendations to prevent fraud?
Doctors should be aware of the reports that they can run with their practice management systems. At least they should ask for a daily deposit book or charge summaries. The most important thing is to pay attention and be involved in the daily business.

Thank you very much for the interview.

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