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Is Your Receptionist Worth His or Her Weight in Gold?


What exactly makes a really good receptionist? And what can physicians do to help the receptionist succeed and feel appreciated?

The New York Times

The value of gold is high right now, so when we're talking about a medical practice receptionist whose worth is equal to that of gold, we're talking about an employee of your practice who is a genuine asset. A recent article in celebrated these folks as your "unsung heroes at the front line of patient care."

What does this "golden" medical practice receptionist look like, and what does she do to earn such kudos? (I'm defaulting to the feminine as most of the medical receptionists I know seem to be women.)

Your receptionist is a touch point” for your medical practice. She is typically the very first person your patients, new and old, encounter when they walk through the door. She is calm, confident and cheery.

Her key role is to be a relationship builder between the patient and the physician and health care team. She helps manage the emotions that arise when patients are upset, doctors are irritable and back office staff is flustered with too much to do all at once.

She is also instrumental in boosting your medical practice income, as her role typically includes collecting co-pays and, if well-trained, overdue account balances.

In the modern electronically wired medical practice, she is comfortable with technology. She knows how to use the EMR to keep the doctors and back-office staff updated and informed of changes or patient insights using instant messaging. She can use an insurance card scanner to manage the updated patient insurance and demographic data and she can assist with online form completion or using a check-in kiosk in the waiting room.

Typical job requirements might include (the list is not exhaustive):

  • greeting patients and visitors, and helping them check in
  • answering patient questions
  • communicating insightful and important information about the patient to the physician ("Mrs. Jones needs to be out of here by 3 p.m. as her son is picking her up outside.")
  • estimating patient wait time and updating them about physicians' schedule status while reassuring them
  • obtaining accurate patient information and updated copies of insurance card
  • registering new patients into the practice management system/EMR
  • refreshing patient demographics and insurance information at each visit
  • letting patients know about their payment responsibilities for their visits
  • sending out new patient welcome kits and referral thank you notes

How can you help your medical practice receptionist succeed?


! This needs to be the job of other medical practice employees

DO NOT make her take phone calls or schedule appointments

2. Provide ongoing customer service training (that should be happening with all your employees)

3. Make sure she has access to established medical practice policies and procedures, and that she understands them

4. Empower her to discuss ways to improve the job based on her observations and "frontline" experiences

5. Provide her with a name tag

6. Encourage her to use patient names

7. Ensure that she has excellent training to use your computer systems and administrative office technology

8. Help her set goals that offer the opportunity to stretch

9. Provide timely constructive feedback about her performance


her regularly, when she shines like a new ingot of gold!

Celebrate and thank

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice