The Fraud Examiner

Health Care Fraud Expert Focuses on Cleaning Up Private Practices
 

Dr. Richard Lyschik, DDS, CFE, FAGD, President of Practice Rescue, was in the health care industry for many years before he added fraud prevention and detection to his skillset. While providing management consultation to many practices, he observed a variety of fraud schemes and was disheartened at how many medical professionals were hesitant to do anything about it. He warns that perpetrators in health care fraud schemes can be anyone and that doctors need to get more serious about punishing fraud.

 

How did you become interested in fraud prevention and detection?

My parents came to America from Austria and I traveled frequently to Europe as a child to visit family. Learning how to calculate exchange rates and even interpret travel schedules made me analyze groups of data. Traveling from country to country introduced me to strict border crossing protocols and accurate documentation requirements. Seeing the world definitely got my CFE analytical training off to an early start.

 

I later learned how to run three private practices and began to assist other doctors with their office operations. Eventually I became a management consultant for practices across the country and was exposed to a variety of fraud schemes. I was finally able to validate all of the fraud observations I made over the years as a health care provider when I joined the ACFE.

 

What should more people know about health care fraud?

Health care is particularly susceptible to fraud because of the endless variety of schemes and perpetrators. Fraud occurs at all levels, from the smallest “mom and pop” practice to multimillion-dollar facilities. Between charging for procedures not done, up charging for those that were done and kick-backs between doctors for referrals to each other, there is a lot of opportunity for fraud to be committed.

 

The perpetrators in health care fraud go beyond just doctors, partners and employees. Landlords, lawyers, equipment and supply vendors, and many more individuals involved in practices can potentially commit fraud. Lately there has been a trend with third-party individuals and companies that offer to come in to manage practices. They promise to grow the profits of the practice but can take advantage of medical professionals’ lack of business acumen and use the practice as an opportunity for fraud.

 

What are the most challenging aspects of investigating health care fraud?

It is shocking at how difficult it is to get doctors to believe that there could be fraud in the practice and just as hard to convince them to clean it up. I am always surprised at how when we initially discover fraud. Many doctors’ first reactions are that they don’t want to “rock the boat.” They don’t want you to upset the cash flow or their associated lifestyle, and they don’t want to go through a stressful firing and hiring encounter. They also worry about upsetting the morale of the employees — they often say, “What are the other staff going to think?” Some doctors believe they can solve the matter by having a staff meeting and others have even naively thought that if they speak to the fraudster the fraud will stop occurring.  

 

Another type of doctor I’ve encountered is the one who thinks they are untouchable because they can call upon their CPA, their lawyer, or their malpractice carrier to get them out of “hot water.” It is rewarding though when the doctor recognizes the gravity of the fraud — we have assisted in successfully getting fraudsters fired, prosecuted and incarcerated. Unfortunately, there are times when a casual approach is taken and the fraudster mysteriously disappears and moves on to another similar health care business. It’s unfortunate to know the fraudster has access to money, supplies, drugs and confidential patient files again.

 

What is your most memorable health care fraud case?

I will never forget the office manager who took home the entire office computer while the doctor was on vacation. She had it cloned by her uncle to capture more than 2,000 patient records filled with social security numbers, insurance policy numbers and credit card data. When the doctor returned from vacation, and the patients’ credit card charges appeared on their monthly statements, it was discovered that the office manager went on a shopping spree for jewelry, exercise clothes, diet pills and more. My team assisted the doctor in the proper termination and subsequent prosecution of that employee.

 

Additionally, other employees in the practice were let go and strict new fraud prevention guidelines were introduced into the practice. The end result is that the practice became more profitable and added a second doctor within a year because of enhanced practice methods and controls. 


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