Updated January 2023
Medical office administrators (MOAs) are some of the world's best "jugglers." This is truly a multi-faceted role that requires a special balance of interpersonal, customer service, and administrative skills.
Medical admins interact closely with patients and other clinicians. They handle billing. They keep track of inventory and order supplies. MOAs assist with minor clinical procedures, manage patient records, and arrange appointments.
It's not enough to be well-organized and efficient (although these attributes are indeed key). Medical assistants must also be compassionate, kind, and firm when it's called for. They are the face of the clinic as well as its clerical backbone.
So what techniques do experienced medical office administrators rely on to keep their clinics running smoothly? What should today's MOA program grads keep in mind as they head off to their first professional positions?
Get started by following these four words of wisdom for a well-run and welcoming practice.
1. "Reading the Room": Handling Anxious or Disruptive Patients
Many patients feel anxious before they even get to the doctor's office or hospital waiting room. And having to wait longer than expected for an appointment only intensifies that anxiety.
Effective MOAs use several techniques to calm down upset patients before their behaviour disrupts the entire medical office. These include compassionate and strategic communication techniques, such as:
- Getting any fears out in the open before the patient arrives for an appointment (by talking through the upcoming visit or procedure, asking how the last appointment went, and generally putting them at ease).
- Approaching an upset waiting room patient right away, listening compassionately to their concerns, and offering whatever help you can (even if it's just a cup of water while they wait).
- Being honest and upfront about extended wait times, keeping negative reactions carefully controlled, and showing patients you are on their side.
2. Mastering the Art of Appointment Scheduling
Every good medical office administrator or medical office receptionist knows the importance of an effective scheduling strategy. A disorganized approach leads to extended wait times, stressed-out staff, and an unprofessional atmosphere. Experienced MOAs keep the following factors in mind when booking appointments:
- Allowing for extra "lead time" before each appointment for patients who must fill out forms and have an initial assessment, and for those who may simply arrive a bit late for their visit.
- Considering busy seasons (such as an influx of appointments for kids at the beginning of the school year, or during the winter months when flu is common).
- Leaving fixed time slots open for walk-ins.
It's very important that patients see the doctor on time. If patients are consistently kept waiting, they will compensate by arriving late to their appointments—making your job much harder and throwing off the daily routine for the entire medical team.
3. Producing Complete & Accurate Patient Files at a Moment's Notice
At any given moment, a clinician may ask you for a patient's file. MOAs must ensure that these records are complete and up to date at all times. Doctor's notes from the last appointment, x-rays, lab results, photocopies, updated health history—every component must be carefully accounted for and ready to hand over to the nurse or doctor.
4. Prioritizing Requests That Happen all at the Same Time
Whether you're working as a medical admin in the emergency department at a hospital or helping run a private practice, your ability to multitask will be tested.
It's key for MOAs to keep a cool head when multiple tasks need doing simultaneously, and to understand which jobs must be done first. You could easily have the phone start ringing just as a patient approaches the front desk with a question, and at the same time, the doctor rushes in to request your help with something.
Experienced medical admins know how to size up the situation quickly, prioritize tasks, and work through them efficiently, without feeling panicked.
Learn more about training & careers
Considering becoming a medical office administrator, but need to know more about training requirements and career options?
Take a look at Herzing College's Medical Office Administrator training, delivered at the Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg campuses. Visit the program page for a complete list of included courses or to chat live with an expert advisor.
Or simply fill out the form at the top right of this page to get fast, free information about the program. We're here to help!