A new study from the Rotman School of Management in Toronto about workplace theft and cheating may have important implications for medical practices.

The study found that deprivation effects — such as being harmed by the recent recession, or by new public policies — reduce employees’ commitment to ethical behavior.  Prior to feeling deprived, people tend to believe they’ll maintain their moral standards regardless of circumstances; however, when put to the test of reduced financial well-being — especially compared against peers — the study found that people may relax their standards, especially when they believe their change in position is unfair.

This is a helpful reminder to practices to make sure internal controls are in place, to reduce temptation.  The recession (ongoing in some markets), deep resentment of the ACA among some staff, and the added workload from new regulations all may contribute to employees feeling disadvantaged versus peers outside of medicine, or even versus patients.  (Some employees may also feel sympathy for patients whose health plans will carry more patient responsibility payments in the coming year, too — perhaps resulting in losses from co-pay waiving and the like.)

Internal controls are the kindest way to protect your practice against internal theft.  By setting up procedures and structures that reduce temptation and make theft more difficult, you reduce the need to be suspicious or personally monitor employees — and allow your practice the freedom to cultivate the family-like atmosphere that so many of us want.  If your internal controls need a review, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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