Seattle Plastic Surgeon reports the winner of “The Dom” at this week’s annual meeting of the Northwest Society of Plastic Surgeons.
This year’s meeting featured many excellent presentations on clinical outcomes, clinical research, operative techniques, patient management and lab research. And then there was the practice management paper presented by Dr. Geoff Yule on employee embezzlement which won the highly coveted “best presentation by a member” award. This is a very uncomfortable topic but actually a fairly common problem in medicine. We docs aren’t quite as good at keeping track of our finances as we ought to be. We tend to be focused on patient care (a good thing) and tend to be a very trusting bunch (mostly a good thing until someone rips us off).
Dr. Yule is in solo practice and does mostly hand surgery. Most of his surgeon’s fees are covered by Labor and Industries or various insurance companies and health plans. When he submits a bill for say, $743.22, for his hard work, he never, ever gets paid that amount. He always gets paid something less because of contract agreements and payment schedules. Thus he always has funky balance sheets with lots of write offs. This is a situation ripe for a dishonest employee to take advantage of. A payment here or there gets diverted to another account and shows up as a write off. A little here and a little there can add up to a very significant embezzlement as it did in this case.
Dr. Yule was fortunate in that he discovered the dirty deed before it really threatened the viability of his practice. Many embezzlement victims are not so lucky. It was his very astute and savvy wife who dug deep and put all of the pieces together.
Dr. Yule presented the various parts of the investigation and emphasized how this sort of deception involving a formerly trusted employee is so painful. He also reviewed some warning signs that are so easy to overlook when you are running a busy practice. And then, as is so common, it turns out that this employee had a history of dishonesty but had never been prosecuted. She was free to move onto the next trusting employer.
Well, she has not been able to move on quite so quickly this time. She was arrested and prosecuted and is doing hard time for her crime. Dr. Yule did the right thing to press charges and get this rip off artist off the street and out of the next doctor’s office.
Thanks for reading! And remember – it’s better to be paranoid than sorry. Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder