by Joe Capko
Frequent readers of this blog will appreciate that we consistently recommend that management foster a culture of support and mutual respect toward all staff. Consistently, the best-run practices invest in their employees and, correspondingly, reap the benefit of a highly-motivated, creative and responsible staff. While we still advocate such an approach, one recent study that looked into the effects of electronic monitoring on restaurant workers got us thinking that there may be relevance to the medical practice.
As in medical offices, employee theft is a considerable problem in the restaurant industry. It is estimated that 1% of revenues are lost to theft – a huge problem when profits average, as in the casual dining segment studied, about 3.5% of revenue. The study, Cleaning House: the Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity (http://bit.ly/14ylckj), found striking changes in staff behavior upon the start of employee monitoring. The employee monitoring was via the algorithm-based Restaurant Guard product sold by NCR and can be integrated with their POS systems. This electronic system is designed to flag employees that have a relatively large number of suspicious activities within the IT system, e.g., transferring a food order from one table to another, voiding partial orders, etc.
To cut to the chase, bottom line revenues increased dramatically – almost a three thousand dollar a week! What is perhaps most surprising is that the vast majority of the increase to the bottom line was a result of improvements on the sales side – meaning that while employees stole less, they also actively sold more, especially more high-margin drinks.
Restaurants are particularly vulnerable to this type of theft because they tend to be high-volume enterprises with a relatively large number of cash transactions. Nonetheless, with patient financial responsibility being an ever increasing part of your practice, we have to accept that the consequences of theft can be direr than ever for medical practices, too.
It’s our hope and expectation that EHRs and practice management systems will eventually offer tools to alert busy managers to irregular patterns in staff behavior that may indicate theft. Until then, your best defense is to make sure you have solid financial controls that reduce the opportunity for a single thief to remain undetected for any length of time. Lastly, one of the most effective and cost-effective techniques is to simply demonstrate that management cares not only about the staff, but every cent of revenue it is due.