All verbal and nonverbal communication should help to create a positive patient experience. Patients should be treated courteously and professionally, with all instructions or information conveyed in terms they understand.
You may be the first person in the office to become aware of an emergency situation. Be sure you know the proper response for different emergencies and how to activate it, according to office protocol.
A great deal of work activities will be conducted over the telephone. There should be policies and protocols to follow for standard telephone inquiries and requests. You should never treat phone calls as a nuisance or an irritation, and all callers should be spoken to respectfully.
When answering phone calls, be prepared for inquiries. This means that you should know the procedures for scheduling appointments, receiving lab results, providing information for individuals currently experiencing health problems, and for working with insurance companies. Also know where to find answers if you do not know them.
All confidentiality protocols must be followed for telephone conversations. It is necessary to keep records, according to state regulations, whenever medical advice or instructions are provided over the telephone. This is usually done with a call log. Messages should also be noted in the log and handled appropriately.
Many letters, reports, medical forms, and other types of written communication are necessary in the daily operation of a medical office. Much of the writing may also become a part of the patient health record, and therefore, a legal document. All writing must be clear and accurate.
Incoming communication should be routed to the appropriate individual or department. It should be attended to, according to priority, in the following order:
Outgoing mail should always be formatted and addressed correctly and should have correct postage. This includes proofreading and editing to follow business writing standards. The addresses should always be legible to allow for scanning by the post office. There are several methods and priority levels for mail, and it is imperative to select the most appropriate one when you dispatch a letter or package.
Learning and using the correct medical terminology is a core duty of medical assistants. It is one of the categories that is covered in medical assistant tests because it is necessary for understanding and communicating effectively in a medical environment.
Most medical information and records have not previously been stored and transmitted electronically. Currently promoted practices, however, make Information technology (IT) and its applications an integral part of any medical office. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act incentivized the digitalization of health records. One application is computerized provider order entry (CPOE), which is used to submit orders such as medications, laboratory, and radiology orders. Anyone using this system must be credentialed. EPIC is an Electronic Health Record system used in many hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare organizations. Electronic medical records and electronic health records contain all information previously found in a patient’s paper file, with the benefit of being able to move with the patient as they receive care at different locations.
Appointments should be scheduled in a manner that minimizes wait time for patients when possible. Extra accommodations should be made for patients with limited mobility or with specialized medical equipment.
Several types of scheduling systems are used for setting up appointments. Open-hour scheduling and time-specified scheduling work best for smaller offices. Wave scheduling is typically used in large medical offices with enough staff to see several patients at the same time. Modified wave scheduling can vary the length of time between appointment bookings to reduce the risk of patients waiting long periods of time. Double booking, or scheduling two patients for the same time slot, is effective when both patients can be seen in the time period. If not, the office will fall behind schedule.
Scheduling appointments should also take into consideration the physician’s time and daily activities. In addition to seeing patients, physicians also need time for meetings, conferences, hospital rounds, completing paperwork, and other necessary duties. If the patient needs additional equipment, such as testing equipment, you must also ensure that the equipment is available at the scheduled time. Patients experiencing an emergency should be prioritized.
Medical assistants must conduct a patient interview for both new and established patients that includes health history. When a new patient makes an appointment, you must collect additional information, such as insurance, and create a new patient medical chart.
Patients may need referral information for home healthcare facilities and telemedicine visits, when available. With telemedicine, the visit is conducted over a video connection. It is commonly used to treat patients in rural areas, since it decreases the amount of travel time necessary.
Rescheduling appointments is a routine part of operations. It may be necessary due to an emergency for the physician. If the doctor is away, you must contact the patient as soon as possible and reschedule. When a patient misses an appointment, it is necessary to document the absence as the office may still request payment. (If this is the policy, the patient should be notified when they first become a patient.) If the patient requests to reschedule, it is not a good practice to refuse, as it contributes to poor customer relations.
Patient reminders should be completed at least a day or two prior to the appointment. This can reduce the rate of no-shows and missed appointments. If a patient cancels an appointment, rescheduling the appointment while they are on the phone is a good idea, but telling them that they must confirm it is not a good customer relations practice.
At times, it may be necessary to make referrals to specialty clinics, home health nursing facilities, or community resources. A list of consultants should be available and kept current for staff reference. The patient should be given the specialist’s name, address, and phone number.