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Medical Office Reception Area—Comfortable, Clean, Confidential

A medical assistant may be responsible for the management of the office’s reception area and tasks associated with reception. This includes the reception room environment, telephone technique, professional behavior, and patient confidentiality. Providing a clean, positive, and confidential environment for patients will ensure that their rights are respected and that they are managed with dignity, honesty, and integrity.

Reception Area Environment

The reception area must be comfortable, safe, and sanitary for all patients and medical staff. The reception area is the first place patients see when they enter the medical facility, so great care should be taken to make a good first impression.

  • Comfort – Both the office atmosphere and seating should be comfortable while the patient waits for the medical assistant, nurse, or doctor. Comfort keeps patients relaxed while they anticipate undergoing a procedure or treatment. The patient should be at ease and free from pain or constraint.
  • Safety – The patients and medical staff should be protected from danger, risk, or injury.
  • Sanitation – The reception area and other parts of the office facility should be clear of dirt and bacteria. Keeping the medical office facility clean will stop the spread of viruses, bacteria, and disease.

Telephone Technique

Medical assistants may be responsible for answering the phone at a doctor’s office or medical facility. They must be able to manage calls properly, understand what the patient needs, and ascertain whether or not the call is urgent. The medical assistant must transfer patients properly and take messages when a patient has a question or request for the physician.

  • Call Management – There are two types of calls that a medical assistant may encounter, a call to screen or gather data to share with medical staff and an emergent or urgent situation. If a true emergency is happening, the medical assistant should instruct the caller to dial 911. If it is an urgent matter, the medical assistant should schedule the patient as soon as possible so as not to allow the issue to get worse.
  • Transferring Patients – The medical assistant should carefully listen to patients to make sure that they are transferred to the right person, especially if it is an urgent matter.
  • Messages – When taking messages, medical assistants should be clear and concise, gathering pertinent information so they know why the patient is calling and what they need in return. The medical assistant should also make sure to understand the urgency of the request.

Professional Behavior

Since the physician’s office is a professional environment, medical assistants must display specific skills including tact, diplomacy, courtesy, respect, and dignity. They must also display a sense of responsibility, have integrity, and be honest with the patient. The medical assistant must also be good at responding to criticism.

  • Tact – Medical assistants should be good at dealing with difficult or delicate situations. The medical assistant should have a keen sense of what is appropriate, tasteful, and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Diplomacy – MAs must deal with patients and colleagues in a sensitive and effective way.
  • Courtesy – The medical assistant needs to show politeness in attitude and behavior toward patients and colleagues.
  • Respect – Medical assistants must show admiration for patients’ and colleagues’ abilities, qualities, and achievements.
  • Dignity – MAs should be respectful, recognize privacy, and honor patients’ self-worth.
  • Responsibility – The medical assistant should accept complete responsibility for situations and choices made.
  • Integrity – Medical assistants must do the right thing in a reliable way.
  • Honesty – A medical assistant is truthful and sincere, no matter what.
  • Acceptance of Criticism – MAs listen, respond calmly, don’t take it personally, and manage the stress of the situation.

Professional Image

A medical professional should exhibit good hygiene. To show respect to patients and let them know you are serious about your job, medical professionals should wear the proper clothes appropriate to their title at the medical facility. Wearing clean scrubs, lab coat, or professional clothes shows that you respect your patients so they can respect you as well.


Much of what medical assistants do deals with confidential patient information. The medical assistant must adhere to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations and proper management of electronic access. They must also protect the disclosure of personal and protected health information through consent to release.

Some of the confidential information that laws and regulations have to do with include drug and alcohol treatment records, HIV-related information, and mental health data. The medical assistant must work to keep patients’ information confidential and on a need-to-know basis.

HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act sets a national standard to protect medical office records and other personal health information. The HIPAA law also gives patients the right to view their confidential medical records and request changes if the data are incorrect.

Electronic Access Audit and Activity Log – The medical assistant may be responsible for managing access to electronic records and monitoring the activity log to make sure that no one without clearance is accessing the confidential records. If an unauthorized person has viewed these electronic records, the medical assistant should report the matter to the proper person in charge, whether the physician or director of the office facility.

Use and Disclosure of Personal and Protected Health Information (PHI) – Proper use of disclosures and releases may be needed to educate patients and get their consent to share any confidential information. Protected health information is any information about health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care collected by a covered entity and can be linked back to a specific individual.

  • Consent and Authorization to Release – This is used to release a patient’s protected health information as required by federal or state privacy laws. The patient’s authorization allows the medical facility or health insurance company to release confidential health information to an entity that the patient chooses.
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment Records – Published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulation restricts the disclosure and use of patient records that include information on substance use diagnoses or services without the consent of the patient.
  • HIV-Related Information – This information is confidential and may not be shared without the permission of the patient under Pennsylvania’s Act 148.
  • Mental Health Information – Pursuant to the Department of Health and Human Services and the HIPAA act of 1996, sharing of treatment information is prohibited among mental health providers without the express written consent of the patient, as it is applied in tandem with state and federal medical records confidentiality laws.

Are you a people person? Do you enjoy helping others? Are you ready for a rewarding career as a medical assistant? The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.

Contact us today to find out more on how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.