What does a Medical Office Administrator do?

In a health clinic or other medical office, a medical office administrator, also known as a medical secretary or office assistant, is primarily responsible for answering phones, scheduling appointments, and managing patient files. These workers are frequently employed physicians and nurses, but they can also be found in hospitals, urgent care centers, and assisted living or hospice facilities. Whatever the setting, the work is usually similar and revolves around secretarial and basic paperwork management tasks.

Interaction with Patients Directly

The administrator is usually the first person patients see when they walk into a medical office. He or she usually sits at a desk near the front door and is in charge of checking people in, answering questions, and ensuring that patients are comfortable. This person may also be in charge of managing the waiting room, including keeping it clean and providing distractions such as reading materials, toys, or appropriate television shows, depending on the office.

In most places, managing paperwork that patients must complete is also a part of the job. Typically, administrators collect and record insurance information as well as medical history forms and disclosures, as well as any outstanding co-payments or time-of-service bills.

Answering Phones and Keeping Track of Calendars

Another crucial aspect of this professional’s job is answering the phone. When people call medical offices, they usually speak with an administrator, at least at first, especially if they need directions to the office or want to schedule an appointment. In the event of a medical emergency, the receptionist will usually transfer the call to a physician or nurse, or take a detailed message and relay the most important details to the medical expert “on call.”

In addition, the job usually necessitates a high level of savvy when it comes to time management and organization. Typically, administrators create and manage calendars for appointments, patient consultations, and important meetings, which they must keep up to date at all times. It is usually the administrator’s job to make adjustments when doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals fall behind schedule or have to miss days. Calling patients, rescheduling events, and rearranging appointments at the last minute could all be part of the job.

Clerical Service

The medical field is heavily reliant on records, and one of the most important responsibilities of the medical office administrator is to keep paperwork and written files in order. The most common place to start is with patient records. In most cases, the administrator must devise a system for keeping files up to date and accessible, which frequently involves computing and electronic record-keeping. Most modern offices have a mix of digital and paper-based files, and combining the two can be more difficult than it appears.

Office administrators may also be in charge of managing correspondence as well as utility bills and payroll administration. Much of this is dependent on the size of the practice in question — larger operations, such as hospitals, often have dedicated billing departments that handle financial matters, whereas smaller practices often delegate these responsibilities to the person who sits at the front desk. In some cases, this person may also be in charge of insurance paperwork, such as issuing patient bills and managing third-party payments.

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An administrator may be required to assist the medical staff with tasks such as records dictation, transcription, and exam room preparation, depending on the office. It may also be necessary to order lab tests. Although this is no means a universal part of the job description, some healthcare professionals treat their office staff as personal assistants, asking them to arrange personal transportation, make dinner reservations, or collect dry cleaning.

Various Work Environments

A medical office administrator may work in a variety of settings. Individual practices are some of the most common, but the job can be found almost anywhere that patients and healthcare workers interact, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and stand-alone clinics. These types of administrators can sometimes be found working from home, often as “virtual assistants.” Physicians and others who run small practices may not have the resources to hire full-time staff to schedule appointments and manage filing, but getting remote assistance for a few hours a week can be beneficial. Access to the Internet and a dedicated phone line for handling medical calls are usually required for work-at-home arrangements, but the specifics can vary greatly depending on the circumstances.

Requirements for Education and Training

When it comes to hiring medical office administrators, employers largely set their own requirements, but a high school diploma or equivalent is almost always required. Experience working as a clerical assistant is usually a plus, as is knowledge of medical billing and coding. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer courses specifically designed to prepare students for work in medical offices. Although these types of programs do not guarantee employment as a medical office administrator, they can help applicants stand out in a competitive job market or with desirable employers.