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A medical secretary is a member of staff in health care facilities like hospitals and doctors' offices who performs administrative and supportive functions. In addition to having administrative skills, medical secretaries should have knowledge of medical terminology and be familiar with various medical procedures and business practices.
On a typical day, healthcare facilities are busy attending to the many patients who seek their services. Medical secretaries receive patients, assist them with filling out forms, maintain and retrieve medical files, and transcribe and type medical reports. Generally, they organize the huge amounts of data that the office generates every day.
A medical secretary is usually the first person that a patient interacts with when they arrive or call the office, and they form an important link between the patient and the physician. Often, the size of the facility determines the structure of hierarchy and the specific duties assigned to the secretary. In a smaller private clinic for example, the medical secretary may report directly to the physician. Larger establishments on the other hand, may have a structure in which the secretary reports to the department's head and may perform specific functions.
A medical secretary should have good knowledge of computer applications, spreadsheets, and medical software. This knowledge enables them to perform duties like updating patient information, scheduling appointments, managing the facility's database and medical records, managing the physician's schedule, and processing payments and insurance claims for the patient. They should also have good verbal and written communication skills in order for them to be able to write and prepare reports, talk with patients (both in person and by telephone), and transcribe and type medical reports.
To perform their duties effectively, medical secretaries should have excellent administrative and organizational skills, people skills and the ability to handle patients and other members of the public skillfully. A high level of discretion to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information is a desirable attribute along with the ability to work with minimal supervision, handle pressure and meet deadlines.
Institutions like learning institutions, hospitals, private clinics, research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, health insurance companies, and non-governmental agencies need medical secretaries to perform clerical and administrative support duties.
A medical secretary's job is mainly office oriented. Medical secretaries often spend a good part of their workday in the front office area where there is a lot of interaction with patients and other members of the public. Work hours are mostly the standard nine to five excluding weekends, and one may opt for a part-time job. Depending on the patient and work traffic, medical secretaries sometimes work under much pressure because of their many responsibilities and tight deadlines.
To become a medical secretary, a high school diploma is required. Many employers will accept high school graduates and train them on the job. However, some tertiary institutions offer accredited training programs for aspiring medical secretaries who wish to get certification. Formal training combined with work experience improves one's chances of getting better jobs and higher pay. The medical secretary training programs cover various courses including business communication, medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, records management, database management, transcription, and insurance claims processing. Other courses include office practices and computer studies.
Prior to enrolling students into the medical secretary program, some colleges make completion of readiness tests a requirement. These tests, which commonly test students in math, reading and writing skills, prepare them for the medical administration program's course work. Online programs, which offer convenience to those who cannot attend the classes in person, are available as well. Because of the flexibility that these online courses offer, the programs are popular especially with those who are already in the job market but wish to study at the same time. However, it is important to note that online programs require commitment and discipline.
A career in medical administration is a good option for those who wish to work within the medical profession performing non-medical duties. Working as a secretary in a healthcare setting does not mean that one is stuck in the same position for years. This is because the career offers good prospects for career progression. With advance education and experience, one can rise to a managerial position or other senior role offering more responsibilities and rewards.
Medical unit secretaries handle clerical tasks on hospital floors and nursing centers. They answer phones, greet and refer guests, and file medical information on paper or through computer databases. Although their medical facilities may be open 24 hours a day, they typically only work 40 hours a week. They must learn both administrative procedures and health-care information.
A medical secretary plays a pertinent role in a doctor's office because keen precision in listening, spelling and typing is absolutely vital to a patient's treatment. This type of secretary may have numerous tasks in a physician's office, and accuracy is absolutely key because the contents of a patient's medical file will be used to diagnose and treat medical conditions.
Medical secretaries manage the daily ebb and flow of patients through a doctor’s office. Whether they greet you upon arrival or work behind the scenes – ensuring shot records are in order, scanning insurance cards and collecting co-payments – these professionals manage a fast-paced and often hectic environment.
One of the fastest growing segments of the secretarial field, medical secretary careers involve general administrative duties with specialized medical and healthcare operations knowledge. Read on to find out the education requirements, skills involved, salary and employment outlook for this career.
A medical secretary performs clerical duties in a medical office. His or her tasks typically include typing, maintaining files and billing. There is quite a bit of public interaction in this occupation as well.