Page 2 Medical Office Management Study Guide for the Medical Assistant test

Patient Interaction

Medical assistants have a high degree of interaction with patients, including conveying information on policies. This communication should always be respectful and informative.


The reception area is where the patient is first met by staff. Anyone working in the reception area should greet the patient, determine the reason for the visit, and provide instructions or direct the patient to the appropriate place in the facility. In some instances, it may be necessary to prioritize patients or other individuals who must be seen urgently.

Explanation of Practice Policies

Policies that affect patients must be communicated to them. If there are particularly important policies that are frequently used, it may be helpful to hang signs in key locations. Always use terms that the patient can easily understand. An example of this would be a sign near patient check-in, saying: “Full payment is expected at the time of service.”

Paperwork Procedures

It may be necessary for the patient to complete several forms prior to a visit. These should be checked to ensure completion. A patient’s insurance card should be copied for the file so that it is available for billing. If any signatures are required, such as for disclosures, this should also be completed prior to the visit.


In many instances, it may be necessary to provide additional resources to a patient, such as referrals and recommendations. Additionally, be ready to communicate information about community resources, such as those that provide rides for patients. It is helpful to keep a list of resources available so you can work with the patient to coordinate follow-up treatment.


Medical assistants are frequently aware of sensitive patient information, including diagnoses and treatment, test results, and insurance concerns. All information must be kept confidential and any breach of confidentiality could result in job loss and legal or criminal charges.

Difficult Situations

You will encounter circumstances with which it is difficult to deal. At those times, it is important to be respectful and helpful. Situations in which a physician is suddenly unavailable or delayed should be communicated to patients as soon as possible.

There are also instances in which a patient refuses treatment or opts for a plan that is against medical advice. In such cases, the assistant should respect this decision, even if it conflicts with personal beliefs. The appropriate form should always be used to document these occurrences.


To ensure smooth office operation, there should be a high degree of teamwork among all employees. This ensures that everyone is working together to achieve the same goal.

Time Management

Medical practices can be very busy places and require many important tasks. A medical assistant must be able to prioritize these tasks so that the most important are completed first. Multitasking skills must be strong to ensure completion of all the necessary work.

Team Roles

All individuals should know their roles within the team, as well as their individual goals, to promote a cooperative work environment. It is crucial to identify a back-up person(s) to complete any critical tasks in the event of an absence by a team member. The most efficient teams cooperate and support one another while striving to reach goals.. There must also be a clear chain of command in the event that a dispute arises or a problem must be solved.


Effective leadership skills are necessary for managing a medical office. Some of the skills that should be developed include critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem-solving. A strong leader will solicit input from all team members.


A positive working environment is best for employees and patients. There should be open communication, an understanding of individual differences (including cultural or religious ones), and a process for dealing with conflict, as it occurs.

Dealing with Others

When scheduling appointments, it may be necessary to leave open times for meeting with drug companies, equipment suppliers, or vendors. It may also be necessary to contact other health offices for referral information, as well as insurance companies for information. When communicating with anyone, be courteous to establish a positive work relationship.


All office staff should focus on professionalism while working. Certain standards for behavior, image, and responsibilities are expected.


Professional office behavior should be maintained at all times. This includes treating all clients with diplomacy, courtesy, and respect. Even with difficult clients and in situations where you must respond to criticism, professionalism and tact must be maintained. Additionally, you must also wear appropriate office attire and you should be very punctual, since others in the office rely on you.


Office staff should always maintain high standards for dress and hygiene to affirm the image of a clean, safe, and professional environment for patients. Some examples of medical office apparel guidelines are: wearing closed-toed shoes, avoiding flashy colors, trimming nails, washing hair regularly, and avoiding perfumes or other fragrances.


Behavior by employees should reflect a high degree of responsibility and all guidelines should be followed, including ones that pertain to employee personal phone use and social media policies. It is also beneficial to display other characteristics that work to build a strong team, such as honesty, integrity, accountability, punctuality, attention to detail, and empathy.