Front Desk Appointment Protocols : Medical Assistants Class



  • A medical assistant at the front desk of a doctor's office arranges follow-up appointments for patients, which is:

    appointment scheduling

    Rationale: Front desk medical assistants schedule follow-up appointments for patients in the doctor's office. Patients should not leave a medical office without a follow-up appointment scheduled unless directed by the doctor. Medical assistants working in the front office answer calls to the facility, take messages and direct calls to appropriate medical staff. The front desk medical assist also makes reminder calls to patients before appointments and handles cancellations and appointment changes for those calling the facility. Medical assistants may also arrange admission to hospitals and schedule appointments for radiology and laboratory services.

  • A patient appointment that is scheduled because of a recommendation of another doctor is a:

    physician referral

    Rationale: An appointment that is scheduled for a patient by another doctor's office is considered a physical referral. Each physician that evaluates a patient has a specialty, and there are occasions when a patient complaint or illness may not be the expertise of that one physician. The patient is then referred to another doctor that specializes in that complaint or illness for evaluation. When a physician refers a patient in to the office for an evaluation, it should be documented on the patient chart. Also, any pertinent paperwork or physician notes should be obtained from the referring physician before the scheduled appointment.

  • A patient that would like a same-day appointment because of an illness or emergency is considered an:

    ill appointment

    Rationale: There are occasions in which a patient will call and request to see the doctor on the same day because of an illness or emergency. It is the responsibility of the front desk medical assistant to evaluate the urgency of the call, and determine the need for an immediate appointment. There should be protocol in place to determine what is considered an emergency situation. Collaboration with the doctors and other office staff will help to determine if the patient can be accommodated on the same day, or if the patient can wait or be directed somewhere else for treatment.

  • A scheduled appointment that a patient does not attend is considered a:

    cancellation or no-show

    Rationale: Patients may sometimes fail to keep an appointment, and this needs to be documented for legal reasons. A patient with a scheduled appointment that does not show up, and fails to call and notify the office, is considered a "no-show" to the appointment. A patient may also call and cancel an appointment because of a variety of circumstances. A patient that cancels an appointment should always be rescheduled at the next available time if possible. Some doctor's offices may charge a patient a fee for missed appointments, as the office time is valuable. It is important to know the missed appointment policy for the office in which you work.

  • All patient appointments must be logged in:

    appointment book or computerized system

    Rationale: All patient appointment must be logged in the office appointment book or computerized scheduling system. The appointment book is a legal document, and protects the office in case of a lawsuit. When the office uses a paper appointment book, the entries should only be made in black ink. When a computerized scheduling system is used in the office, all staff should be trained on entering and viewing appointments, and understand all abbreviations that may be used to document reasons for appointments, cancellations, and appointment times.

  • Missed and no-show appointment can often be decreased in the office with:

    appointment reminders

    Rationale: Appointment reminders can help patients remember their next scheduled appointment. Many offices use a reminder card that is given to the patient before they leave the office that can be kept in a purse or wallet. A reminder phone call should be done by the medical assistant on the day before the appointment to remind the patient of their scheduled time, and to reschedule the appointment if the patient is unable to attend.

  • Tasks such as filing charts and updating patient information are tasks performed by medical assistants that are:

    clerical duties

    Rationale: The front desk medical assistant performs filing and clerical duties for the doctor's office. Clerical duties can include filing patient records, updating insurance information and processing insurance claims. Medical assistants also organize the paperwork generated for each patient appointment and organize the chart. They are also responsible for maintaining clerical supplies needed for the office, and ordering supplies and forms for the facility reception area when necessary. Front desk medical assistants also handle the facility correspondence, send and receive mail, and any other task that keeps patient flow steady in the office.

  • The front desk medical assistant in a doctor's office greets patients as they arrive for:


    Rationale: Medical assistants that work at the front desk perform administrative and clerical duties. They act as a receptionist for the office and greet patients arriving for appointments. Front office medical assistants check patients in, obtain insurance information and updates the patient’s information. The administrative medical assistant pulls patient records for the medical staff for each appointment. This is an important job in the medical setting, as this is the first person that a patient has contact with when visiting the office.

  • When a patient calls in to the office to cancel an appointment, you should always attempt to:

    reschedule them

    Rationale: When a patient cancels an appointment in the office, they main priority is to get the appointment rescheduled. First, make every attempt to keep the scheduled appointment time. Educate the patient on the importance of the appointment, and why the doctor wants to see them. If this is not possible, make every attempt to accommodate the patient at another time on the same day, or get the patient rescheduled at the next available date.

  • When calling a patient to remind them of a scheduled appointment, leaving personal information on a voicemail message could be a violation of:


    Rationale: HIPAA is the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is a federal law that helps to protect the patient from having their personal health information revealed to others. Prior to making a reminder phone call to a patient about an appointment, make sure you have the permission of the patient to contact them by phone. Personal information should never be left as a message, as another person could potentially hear the message without the patient's permission. When you need to leave a message for a patient, be very vague with details, and request that the patient call you back at their convenience.


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