What Are the Job Duties of a Medical Receptionist?

Medical receptionists are administrative personnel working in healthcare facilities, like doctor's offices and hospitals. These receptionists interact with patients as well as file paperwork and make contact with insurance companies, making sure the office runs smoothly while helping as many patients as possible. Schools offering Medical Office Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Working as a Medical Receptionist

Medical receptionists, also referred to as medical administrative assistants or medical office specialists, work the front desk at medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and physician's offices. Similar to other types of receptionists, they may greet patients, check them in, and handle any paperwork required before the doctors see them. However, receptionists in healthcare facilities may have additional unique duties, such as:

  • Accepting payments
  • Contacting insurance companies to check coverage
  • Maintaining medical records
  • Scheduling appointments for lab work, surgeries, and other medical consultations
  • Transcribing doctor's recommendations or medical records
  • Arranging hospital admission or transfers for patients

How to Become a Receptionist

Since this is a career that deals with sensitive medical records, medical receptionist jobs may have a much more stringent hiring process than other similar office or receptionist jobs. For instance, medical receptionists must have special training before being hired, as well as meet certain qualifications and have specific skills. Much of this training is offered through programs at community colleges and online universities. Employers may also require certification as part of their hiring process.

Medical Receptionist Skills

If you're thinking about becoming a medical receptionist, consider the kinds of skills and disposition needed to work these positions. As the face of an office and the first person patients will communicate with, a professional demeanor is key to performing the duties of a medical receptionist. They also need exceptional communication skills, in order to understand what patients need and convey that information to the doctor. Occasionally, receptionists will have to interact with patients who may be scared or in pain, and should be able to display compassion and understanding, while maintaining appropriate conduct. Ethical behavior is similarly important, given the private nature of the medical histories that receptionists handle.

Much of the other work that medical receptionists do revolves around computers, so they should also possess excellent typing skills, as well as a familiarity with computers and the programs they have to use. Medical receptionists also often perform phone duties, whether that be scheduling appointments with patients or contacting insurance companies in regards to coverage and payment. Since they could find themselves interrupted mid-task by patients entering or phones ringing, medical receptionists must be able to stay organized and be capable of resuming their prior work once immediate issues are dealt with.

Medical Receptionist Education

Medical office receptionist job descriptions will typically ask for some variety of relevant formal education. Medical receptionist programs primarily take place at the certificate level, although associate's degrees with focuses on particular aspects, such as filing insurance, also exist. Online medical receptionist courses are also available. Courses that you might take while pursuing a medical receptionist credential include:

  • Medical terminology
  • Computers in health care
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Anatomy and physiology

Educational programs for medical receptionists can often be completed in a year for a certificate or take up to two years for associate's degrees. Programs may include a practicum, internship, or other form of on-the-job training just prior to graduation.

Medical Receptionist Qualifications

Aside from proof of education, medical receptionist requirements may include passing background checks and drug tests. Background checks are often required by states, and may even be conducted prior to enrolling in an educational program. Drug testing may be done prior to employment or may be performed at irregular intervals for the duration of employment, depending on the employer. Both tests serve to ensure that an applicant's past will not interfere with their duties at the office, and that they can be trusted around sensitive information and controlled substances, which will be present in the facilities where they work. Medical receptionist duties require that applicants be able to see, hear, and have full use of their hands, and thus may not be well-suited to those with limiting disabilities. CPR training is sometimes required and may be included in educational programs.

Medical Receptionist Certification

Certification for medical receptionists is primarily done through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), using a certification known as Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). While certification is not required in any state, some employers may strongly prefer or require that applicants hold certification.

To take the certification exam, a candidate must be a high school graduate (or equivalent) and have completed a medical receptionist or administrative assistant program in the last 5 years. The CMAA exam ensures knowledge of basic medical receptionist duties and how to deal with common issues, such as scheduling patients, registering new patients and referrals, familiarity with patient forms, filing records and following HIPAA privacy guidelines.

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