What Is a Medical Secretary?

Job Description

Medical Secretary
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Medical secretaries perform clerical duties in a doctor's or other health professional's office. Like others who work in health care support careers, their work is crucial to the functioning of any facility that provides patient care. They type correspondence and reports, maintain files, pay vendors, handle insurance forms, and bill patients. Medical secretaries interact with the public throughout the day, taking phone calls, scheduling appointments, and greeting patients.

They use a variety of office equipment, including computers, fax machines, scanners, and multi-line telephone systems, to do their jobs. Medical secretaries also apply their knowledge of medical terminology, health insurance rules, and medical billing procedures.

Quick Facts

  • Medical secretaries earn a median annual salary of $33,730 or hourly wages of $16.22 (2016).
  • Over 574,000 people work in this field (2016).
  • Jobs are in physicians' and other health care providers' offices.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies this as a "bright outlook occupation." It gives it this designation because the government agency predicts employment will increase by over 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the average job growth for all occupations. 

A Day in a Medical Secretary's Life

Before you embark on a career as a medical secretary, you should know about some of his or her typical job duties.

These were found in job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Maintain doctor's schedule"
  • "Verify and update necessary patient and insurance information"
  • "Greet patients and visitors, check patients in and out, and obtain the necessary documentation. Verify and enter demographic information"
  • "Prepare admission charts/records; assemble charts for new admissions with appropriate forms; label chart with correct patient/physician information and label patient rooms with patient information and physician's name"
  • "Schedule all patients"
  • "Answer very active phone lines"
  • "Prepare paperwork"
  • "Distribute required forms to patients"
  • "Schedule follow-up appointments as required"
  • "Obtain all necessary current information to accurately process patient billing"
  • "Discharge patients in office"
  • "Serve as primary contact for patients and referring physicians"
  • "Obtain and copy, to appropriate parties, results of laboratory tests and scans"
  • "Maintain office equipment and maintaining office supplies (ordering as appropriate)"
  • "Schedule surgeries with the operating room staff, including use of special equipment"
  • "Obtain pre-authorizations and pre-certifications for various imaging testing"

Educational and Training Requirements for Medical Secretaries

Medical secretaries typically need a high school or equivalency diploma. They must have basic office skills and knowledge of medical terminology which they can obtain through classroom instruction or on-the-job training. Community colleges and vocational-technical schools, and even some high schools offer formal training programs.

If you want to be a medical secretary, you need excellent computer skills. You should be able to use email, word processing software, and spreadsheets, in addition to software used for recordkeeping and billing.

What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?

To succeed in this field, you will also need certain personal qualities, called soft skills.

  • Verbal Communication: You must be able to convey information to other support staff and medical professionals.
  • Active Listening: The ability to listen well will allow you to understand your clients' needs and your colleagues' instructions.
  • Writing: Medical secretaries often have to correspond in writing with other medical offices, insurance companies, and patients.
  • Interpersonal Skills: This skill set, which includes the ability to understand body language, and negotiate with and persuade people, will help you in your interaction with patients, doctors or other health care professionals, and colleagues.
  • Organizational Skills: You will be required to keep track of insurance forms, schedules, patient files, and office supplies.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    To find out what qualifications employers are seeking, we again turned to Indeed.com to examine job announcements for medical secretaries:

    • "Must be able to use tact, courtesy, and diplomacy when dealing with employees, supervisors, doctors, patients, insurance companies, and the general public"
    • "Computer experience with excellent Word skills, some experience with Excel and practitioner scheduling software"
    • "Ability to work independently, set priorities, organize and systematically handle a variety of tasks simultaneously"
    • "Must demonstrate effective communication skills both verbal and written"
    • "Knowledge of CPT and ICD9 coding preferred"
    • "Ability to maintain confidentiality"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

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    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited March 19, 2018).