How to prevent theft

September 26, 2016
Use these tips to safeguard your practice.

Excerpted from page 20 of the September 2016 edition of AOA Focus.

Glaucoma patients can attest to optometry's effectiveness against the "sneak thief of sight," but what about thieves in the practice? Theft, shoplifting and cybercrimes aren't likely a practice's top concerns until the worst happens—and then it's paramount.

Use these tips to safeguard your practice from sticky fingers and crooked intentions.

Keep an eye on eyeglasses

Those thoughtfully arranged frame boards and displays—designed to be a center of attention for patients—also are a beacon for any would-be thieves looking to pocket hundreds of dollars in frames and sunglasses. It goes without saying that keeping peepers on your products is paramount.

Erlinda Rodriguez, CPO, AOA Paraoptometric Resource Center Executive Committee chair, says that in addition to staffing the dispensary and contact lens rooms to ensure patients aren't left alone, there's another even simpler solution. "We keep the frame boards of the dispensary filled with eyeglass frames at all times, so that if one is missing, it would be readily noticeable."

Team up to take down theft

Every member on staff has a role in preventing theft, and Douglas Totten, O.D., AOA Ethics & Values Committee chair, suggests a simple rule: Leave no customer unattended. "If a group of shoppers is browsing in the optical, another staff member is to immediately make his or her presence known near the activity. (In our office) the additional staff member is trained to act as if he or she is replacing a frame on the rack or organizing a display area while the other is engaging with the shopper(s)." Rodriguez adds, "All paraoptometrics must work together, so that if one must step out of the dispensary or contact lenses room at any point, another paraoptometric would take his or her place."

Keep it ethical

According to the AOA Standards of Professional Conduct, the doctor of optometry has the duty to treat patients, colleagues and society fairly and without prejudice. This means "optometrists and staff should strive to apply consistent and persistent precautions to reduce the potential risk of theft, despite the appearance or behavior of a person in the office," Dr. Totten says.

"In other words, office staff are always to be vigilant to help prevent shoplifting or any effort that could compromise the security of protected information or theft of materials, regardless of the perceived risk or appearance of a visitor in the office."

Consider the nuts and bolts of theft prevention

Mitigating theft is an exercise in smart stewardship—locks, bars, lights and alarms aren't the most attractive practice furnishings, but they do the job. Keep high-end inventory secured, perhaps only exhibiting a few frames at once, and store the display out of sight after office hours.

Consider installing exterior lights that illuminate the office at night, discouraging break-ins. "We also have cameras that are mounted and prominently displayed so that shoppers know they are being observed," Dr. Totten adds. 

Remember online security, too

Beyond material property, there also are electronic assets that are equally—if not more—important to protect from thieves. The average cost of a health care breach? Roughly $363 per exposed, personally identifiable record in 2015, says industry researcher, the Ponemon Institute.

Joe Ellis, O.D., AOAExcel® Board chair, says cybercrime is a very real possibility. "This issue is a daily occurrence, as you can see breaches every day in the media; large hospitals, large practices and small practices alike face this threat 24/7. We went to our friends at Lockton Affinity [an AOAExcel endorsed business partner], who provided a total scope of practice professional liability policy, and they delivered again for AOA members. You can rest better when you have Lockton there for any issues that arise from cyberliability."

Learn more about Cyber Liability Insurance from AOAExcel, and learn four ways to protect your patients and practice from cyberattacks.

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