Whenever you visit a healthcare practitioner, or are admitted to hospital, one of the first people you interact with is a medical receptionist, or medical administrator. They confirm your appointment, retrieve your patient file, or help process your information. But behind the scenes they are responsible for so much more, often taking care of billing, processing of insurance claims, and communicating with other healthcare providers on behalf of the doctor.

Medical receptionists are expected to have extensive knowledge of medical terms, industry regulations, and various software applications, to ensure that the practice operates smoothly. After all, a poorly managed practice doesn’t only affect the doctor, it also affects the patients. And when you are seeking medical advice or treatment, you don’t want to have to deal with any additional stress.

What are some common tasks performed by medical receptionists?

Medical receptionists can be found in a variety of settings and roles, with the size and type of practice, procedures performed, and even location all influencing this. Some common tasks may include:

  • Making and taking telephone calls.
  • Scheduling appointments for patients. This could include assigning the right amount of time for each appointment, based on the purpose of the appointment.
  • Confirming appointments, and retrieving patient records and/or files.
  • Capturing and maintaining patient records.
  • Collating reports regularly relating to patients, billing, and the practice.
  • Processing billing, health insurance claims, and payments.
  • Managing and maintaining all office software, equipment, stationery, and the cleanliness of the practice.
  • Managing and maintaining medical supplies and equipment required by the practice.
  • Communicating with external labs, pharmaceutical reps, and other healthcare providers, in relation to the needs of patients and the doctor.

Larger healthcare practices may have more than one medical receptionist, with different responsibilities assigned to each.

The role of the medical receptionist in private practice

In a private practice, the role of a medical receptionist can best be summed up as a jack of all trades, but far from a master of none. The smaller the practice, the more important skills like flexibility and multitasking are. In a small practice there is often only one medical receptionist, and they become responsible for all administrative functions, and more.

In a private practice, a medical receptionist – whether alone, or part of a small team – can expect to perform all of the tasks listed in the previous point. They can sometimes even be expected to take on the role of an oracle, answering some questions without first having to refer to the doctor or healthcare practitioner.

A medical receptionist in a private practice needs to be able to think on their feet, and act independently, decisively, and quickly. They need to be able to manage a waiting room full of people, a busy telephone, admin, and any requests from the doctor, without feeling overwhelmed. It isn’t necessarily a high-stress environment, but it does call for a personality that is not afraid of some pressure.

The role of the medical receptionist in a clinic

The tasks facing a medical receptionist in a clinic, or multidisciplinary practice, aren’t very different to that of a private practice. The biggest challenge is that you now have to manage patients according to doctor and specialty. For new patients who have not been referred, this includes establishing the purpose of the visit, or the type of treatment or advice being sought.

There is also a need for greater skill in managing the administrative needs of a clinic or multidisciplinary practice, from maintaining patient records, through to careful processing of billing and health insurance claims. Finally, a medical receptionist in this type of setting may also find their knowledge of medical terminology being challenged, simply because you are no longer dealing with a single speciality.

The role of the medical receptionist in a hospital

In a hospital setting, a medical receptionist is more accurately referred to as a medical administrator, and the roles are often more defined. Some administrators might work in the emergency room, capturing and processing the details of new patients, while others may work exclusively with new admissions, or only with billing.

But rather than limiting your career prospects, a medical administrator in a hospital often has more opportunities for advancement and career growth. As with a medical receptionist in a private practice, there is a need for flexibility, since hospitals are open 24-hours a day. Depending on your administrative role, shift work may be required. And at times the pace could be much more demanding than in a private practice, though the ability to multitask and act decisively are still prized. As is a high level of customer service for all medical administrators in a customer facing role.

Following a career in medical administration

Healthcare in Australia is one of the fastest growing industries, and also one of the largest employers. Following a career in the healthcare industry – and specifically within medical administration – affords you many career opportunities, and great job security.

Medical Administration Training is a Brisbane based Registered Training Organisation (RTO), and has been in operation for more than 10-years. We offer a variety of courses designed to provide you with an entry point into the healthcare industry, or to develop your skills within healthcare administration. This includes a venue based medical receptionist course in Brisbane, with the same course also available for self-paced online study across Australia.

The medical receptionist course is perfectly suited to anyone wishing to pursue a career as a medical receptionist, or anyone already working in this field, and wishing to affirm their skills with a qualification. The course content includes modules on medical terminology, processing of accounts, privacy requirements in healthcare, managing patient records, and industry standard software applications. And don’t look at your age as any kind of obstacle, we have worked with students in their late teens, through to students in their 60s.

Speak to one of our career advisers, who will be able to offer advice and guidance on what course to follow, or if you have any questions relating to recognition of prior learning (RPL).