What if you suspect a veterinary employee is stealing?
We dream up a veterinary practice where a team member may be stealing inventory.
At the hypothetical Jameson Animal Hospital, new head technician Cynthia reports to practice owner Dr. James J. Jameson that products are going missing from the clinic on a regular basis. While performing the recently implemented inventory counts, for a few weeks in a row Cynthia finds one to three fewer units than expected of many products on the shelves. She's sure the quantities received were entered properly into the computer, and the newly implemented medical record audits don't show product sent home with clients or used in no-charge hospitalized cases, which leads her to suspect employee theft.
Dr. Jameson is shocked—he trusted all his employees. But he also trusts Cynthia's judgment. Where does he start? First, he schedules a staff meeting to discuss the missing inventory items, the investigation and new controls that will help ensure inventory items are properly accounted for and secured.
The practice will continue weekly counts of high-volume products, with the addition of monthly inventory counts for all other medications—except controlled substances, which will be counted weekly. Other controls include:
> Security cameras. These cameras will be installed in reception, the pharmacy, the food room, the break room and the employee entrance.
> Card-reader security system to replace keys. Each employee's card will get a card with a unique code. Dr. Jameson alone will be able to access the name, time and date of everyone who enters the building.
> Improved security for nonurgent inventory. Dr. Jameson will leave just enough on the shelves for an average day's worth of sales and lock the rest in a cabinet only he and Cynthia can open. Because receptionists need daily access to the food, however, lead receptionists will have the food room key and be the only one allowed to retrieve diets purchased. A thorough review of controlled-substance protocols and logs will ensure the practice is meeting all legal requirements.
> No more self-invoicing. Staff will run purchases of services and products through a doctor, who will confirm the purchases and enter them on the employee's account. Also, Dr. Jameson will review employee purchases each month for unusual items or patterns.
> Inventory audit reviews. Dr. Jameson will review inventory reports weekly in order to verify that adjustments are legitimate and not a way of disguising theft.
He recognizes that he has been naïve to assume his employees would never steal from him. He intends to follow through with safeguards to ensure the theft stops.
Head over to dvm360.com/inventoryaudit for a handy inventory audit plan and tracking spreadsheet you can use in your own practice to prevent error and theft.
Dr. Karen Felsted is president of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting. Jessica Goodman Lee joined Brakke Consulting in 2011.