Recently, we worked with a practice that had been victimized severely by internal theft. This theft was facilitated by the practice’s failure to take advantage of EFT of payer reimbursements — instead receiving checks from many of their contracted plans.
The physicians had trusted the practice manager when she said that EFT had been elected whenever available (naturally, embezzlers always rely on goodwill from their employers!). But, had the physicians been on top of HIPAA rules regarding EFT — intended to standardize and encourage EFT by January, 2014 — they might have been more skeptical of the manager’s claims that EFT either “wasn’t available” or “was in process.”
Checks received at your office can be a temptation for would-be embezzlers. It’s unfortunately not all that difficult to deposit checks made out to your practice to a different account (ATMs, for example, can be a way to deposit checks to an account with an entirely different name — and, of course, some embezzlers are crafty enough to set up a new account for themselves with a similar name to your practice’s).
It’s rare that a payer won’t pay your practice electronically, direct to your account, if you ask them to — and, in a few short months, there will be a standard for all payers to pay this way. Be skeptical if an employee claims that it is difficult or impossible to avoid receiving checks in the office. Even if you prefer to receive checks — say, because you’re concerned about matching up advice notices with payments, or because you’re worried about direct deduction of payment retractions or other unexpected adjustments — remember that a lockbox service at your bank can help keep temptation (and access) at bay.