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How to Become a Medical Receptionist

The client-facing professional at the front desk of a medical facility takes care of a large portion of the administrative duties of the office. They’ll handle greeting patients, answering basic questions or concerns, handling financial and medical records, and more.

The medical receptionist will additionally handle office inventory management, ensuring equipment and supplies are properly anticipated and ordered. They’ll liaise with the medical care providers and patients to ensure proper and timely treatment. They can even optimize scheduling to meet greater patient satisfaction without overwhelming providers.

As a medical receptionist, you’ll facilitate and administrate the office, while acting as the first point of contact for patients. You’ll enter and update patient data as needed, and help answer basic concerns or inquiries about procedures, timelines, and insurance. You’ll want to have strong communication skills, as well as great time management and organizational skills in order to thrive in this position.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] seeks a mature, friendly individual with a professional appearance for our front office. You must be a well-organized, dependable team player with good interpersonal skills. Our responsibilities include answering multiple phone lines, scheduling, check-in, and collections. Previous medical experience is required. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience working with doctors and patients in a healthcare setting, excellent organizational and administrative skills, firm knowledge of medical terminology, and confidence working in a fast-paced environment and reacting to patient emergencies.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Greeting patients in a professional and friendly manner
  • Registering patients according to established protocols
  • Assisting patients to complete all necessary forms and documentation 
  • Ensuring patient information is accurate including billing information
  • Informing patients of medical office procedures and policies
  • Managing patient records
  • Answering incoming calls and handling or redirecting inquiries
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Collecting co-pays and payments from patients
  • Scheduling hospital admissions, tests, scans, and outside appointments for patients
  • Obtaining medical reports as requested by medical professionals
  • Completing other clerical duties as assigned
  • Maintaining office supplies
  • Safeguarding patient privacy and confidentiality

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Completion of a certificate program in the medical field preferred
  • 2+ years of experience working as an administrative assistant or in a relevant role

Required skills and qualifications

  • Communicate effectively with doctors, staff, and patients
  • Prioritize and organize workflow effectively
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Work effectively as part of a team as well as independently
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Intermediate computer skills
  • Knowledge of medical software
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite
  • Understanding of basic medical terminology
  • Able to multitask
  • Strong organizational and administrative skills
  • Able to work under pressure and handle emergency situations

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to remain calm in a stressful environment
  • Knowledge of HIPAA regulations, ICD, and CPT coding 
  • Ability to work in a changing environment
  • Previous experience in a private billing general practice
  • CPR certified

Typical work environment

Medical receptionists work in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities. They generally work at reception desks and are the first people patients see when they arrive. Medical receptionists spend much of their day sitting at the front desk while answering phones, greeting visitors, and doing clerical work. They also call patients to remind them of upcoming appointments, record patient information, usually in a computer system, and process payments from patients. The environment can be stressful at times as they have to juggle various duties at the same time.

Typical hours

The typical working hours for a medical receptionist are during normal business hours between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Some work Saturdays as well. Others, such as hospital medical receptionists, might have to work shifts, including weekends.

Available certifications

Certificate programs can help medical receptionists strengthen their resumes and learn additional skills that can advance their careers. Below are three examples of many certifications available from a number of organizations, associations, and universities.

  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). Offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), this certificate program provides students with knowledge of medical terminology, office procedures, CPR, first aid, health insurance billing, and more. Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma or GED and 1 year of experience in the medical assistance field. 
  • Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS). The CEHRS is offered by the NHA and demonstrates competence in the basic concepts and functions associated with the keeping of electronic health records. The exam also covers the rapidly changing technology in today’s healthcare industry and how that technology is used in maintaining electronic health record systems. Topics include maintaining secure and accurate records, patient data, and insurance. The certification requires 1 year of experience working with electronic health records and successfully completing the exam.
  • Medical Receptionist Certificate. Many colleges and universities across the country offer certificate programs for medical receptionists. The courses generally require 15 to 30 credit hours to complete and offer students the skills needed to successfully provide exceptional service to patients in healthcare facilities and doctor’s offices. Students learn how to schedule appointments, screen telephone calls, obtain and enter patient registration information, and more. The course provides students with a clear understanding of the billing and collection cycle as well as understanding the principles of medical ethics and HIPAA regulations.

Career path

To become a medical receptionist, the first step is to earn a high school diploma or a GED. Many secondary schools offer medical receptionist certification programs for students seeking entry-level positions. Medical receptionists are employed in a wide variety of healthcare facilities from doctor’s offices to medical clinics and hospitals. Medical receptionists might start out greeting patients and answering phones and then progress to maintaining patient records, billing, scheduling, etc. Those with several years of experience can aspire to become assistant medical office managers and then medical office managers in charge of administrative duties for a doctor’s office or medical facility.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 43-6013

2020 Employment720,900
Projected Employment in 2030853,500
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 18% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift132,600 increase

Technology is ever-evolving, and medical receptionists will have to adapt to technological advancements in medical offices and healthcare facilities. Already, the vast majority of medical offices rely heavily on the use of computers. Going forward, other technology, such as tablets, will be used more and more in healthcare facilities. Staying current with technology in the medical office will provide doctors and healthcare administrators with more accurate and efficient ways to check in patients, schedule appointments, and bill patients. 

The role of the medical receptionist will include a greater dependence on technology. Data analytics skills needed to enter patient information into the medical office’s system will be in high demand to optimize patient care.