The 7 Best Practices for Dental Purchasing Controls

June 28, 2021

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The Best Practices That Safeguard Your Dental Practice’s Profits

Designed to prevent fraud and identify errors and irregularities, internal control procedures are policies and processes that are implemented to ensure the ongoing reliability and accuracy you need. Remaining in control of your dental practice's financial outcomes by mitigating risks increases your likelihood of hitting your objectives.Establishing internal controls and further supporting them through a robust spend management solution puts you in the driver's seat, helping you pinpoint possible problems before they become actual problems.Below we list the seven risk-reducing internal control procedures you should consider for the safety of your practice.

1. Authorization Requirements

dental purchasing controls

Requiring that specific transactions such as issuing of a purchase order or that payment be authorized by a particular manager or set of managers adds a layer of protection against errors, poor judgment, and fraud. Approval requirements should commensurate with the significance of the transaction and are typically set by dollar amount. Before approving, authorized persons should perform a thorough review of the transaction and supporting documentation to validate their accuracy and validity.To ensure adherence and efficiency, delegations of signing authority and authorization requirements should be managed digitally and further documented in writing.

2. Physical Audits of On-Hand Inventory and Assets

Physical audits of your on-hand inventory and assets include counting by-hand dental supplies, office supplies, instruments, small and capital equipment or any other assets that are tracked in your accounting or procurement management system. The frequency of counts is dependent on the item, value, necessity to production, and regularity of use.Ensuring regular counts allows you to discover accounting discrepancies as soon as possible, allowing you to mitigate the risks of causing a stockout and affecting production rates and service levels. However, we always believe in keeping it real, and we understand the challenges faced by dental offices in doing so. Scanning barcodes on boxes as they are pulled from stock rooms or relying on a Kanban process to signal timely purchases are potential workarounds we can help clients to establish.

3. Periodic Reconciliations

Periodically reconciling the account balances in your accounting systems against the account holder's balance, such as banks or suppliers. The process uncovers errors on the side of either party, thereby validating the reliability of your data and the efficacy of your processes and controls.

4. Security

Consider which of your supplies are either physically secured or given limited access to through written policy. Although it may be unrealistic to keep all of your dental supplies under lock and key, you need to ensure the safety of your assets while not impeding work. Nor do you want to create a feeling of distrust. However, despite how much you trust your employees, the possibility of theft must be considered.Theft aside, however, the more people who have access to your supplies, the less accountability there is, causing your stock shelves to very quickly become disorganized and chaotic. This can lead to items going missing or unfound as well as possibly incur damage. Additionally, the lack of using the First In First Out (FIFO) method due to disorganization can cause unusable expired inventory to be taken as a financial loss.

5. Segregation of Duties (SOD)

Segregation of Duties for Dental Practices

Also referred to as the separation of duties, SOD involves distributing responsibilities to eliminate or lessen the potential for fraud. As an example, avoid having one team member in your practice do both the purchasing and the receiving. Other risk-mitigating actions may be taken in offices with a small employee base where the splitting of tasks may not be possible.Splitting the functions related to buying between various employees ensures no single person has excessive control over buying activities.Standard practice is to separate responsibility for:

  • Purchase requests
  • Purchase approvals
  • Receiving of orders or confirmation of work completed
  • Invoice approvals for payment
  • Inventory counts and reconciliation
  • Authorization to dispose or discard of inventory or assets
  • Physical discarding of inventory or assets

6. Standardized Documents and Procedures

Standardizing documents used for financial transactions or within the procurement cycle, such as requests for quotes (RFQs), Purchase Orders (PO's), and invoices, allows for consistent record-keeping and more digestible data. A lack of standardization can cause transactions to be missed or misinterpreted when reviewing past transaction records. This allows for standardized processes such as the three-way-match, which ensures validation of data before payments being issued and eases the finding of discrepancies. It also facilitates the gathering of historical data that can then be used to inform decision making.To aid in training and promote consistent adoption of policies and procedures, as well as ensure clarification of responsibilities, when at all possible, it is best to ensure they are formally documented, including an ethical procurement policy, purchasing, and inventory control procedures.

7. System Access Controls

Controlling access to electronic processes and information via password requirements or lockouts restricts unauthorized employees from performing functions or accessing information that does not fall under their authorization level. It also brings the additional benefit of easing the audit process when looking for the root cause of any errors or discrepancies.

What Can Happen Without Proper Purchasing Controls?

Below are some examples of the possible risks that lay within the procurement cycle without the proper controls in place:

  • Processing purchases and payments for unnecessary, unauthorized, or fraudulent purchases
  • Issuing a payment to a fictitious vendor
  • Initiate and issue payment for a fictitious invoice
  • Theft for resale or personal use

To further clarify, the employee responsible for issuing checks for payment to suppliers should not be allowed to, or be responsible for, the issues of POs and the receiving of goods upon delivery as this would present an enormous opportunity for fraud. For example, the employee could create a fake vendor, confirm undelivered supplies as received, and issue a payment to the said fake vendor.Where the elimination of conflicting duties through SOD is not possible due to a lack of necessary personnel or resource limitations, then mitigating control procedures may be implemented. These controls should:

  • Ensure full transparency and visibility on all transactions performed by employees with conflicting duties.
  • Audited with enough regularity to ensure fraud or theft is not taking place, with proper documentation of audits.
  • Ensure all transaction documentation, either by hard copy or electronically, is maintained.

Method was explicitly designed for the dental industry, with the internal control procedures at the core of its functionality. These preventative measures are designed to safeguard your assets, protect you from fraud or theft while promoting effective and efficient practices. Accurate records and reliable financial reporting is the epicenter of good business management, allowing dental practice owners to rest assured and get on with putting smiles on your patient's faces.Contact us today to schedule a demo and see how our software can help you effectively control your dental purchasing processes!

Learn More About Dental Practice Controls

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