Recognizing the Importance of Customer Service Skills in Healthcare

Medical Assisting is no longer just about the ability to effectively perform physical tasks associated with the job. It is now more than ever about customer service. It’s the reason my family decided to leave our pediatrician of 14 years; one of the most difficult and distressing choices we’ve ever made.

For years, our pediatrician had the right staff in place - they were all pleasant and the Medical Administrative Assistant who manned the front desk was a godsend. Parents always felt their children’s health was in the right hands and the staff knew and loved each patient as though they were their own. As with all things, over the course of time, change occurred – a natural and inevitable process in life. To think things will never change is unrealistic, however, the expectation to receive the best quality of care and customer service from a Medical Assistant is not an option – it is a requirement of the profession.

Today, healthcare is deeply rooted in patient centered care with customer service playing a vital role in patient care and recovery. I often state, “The Medical Assistant is the first line of defense in the process of healing.” In essence, a medical assistant’s attitude and phone etiquette can have a therapeutic affect for most patients long before they meet with the physician. When a patient is ill and must make the call to the physician’s office, the patient’s first contact is typically with you – the Medical Assistant. When an ill patient walks into the office for their appointment, the patient’s first contact is typically with you – the Medical Assistant. It is also the Medical Assistant who escorts the patient to the exam room, who interviews the patient, who may collect and test the patient’s specimen and who records the results of tests for analysis by the physician. In all this time, it is the Medical Assistant who has spent 15 minutes or more with the patient while the physician may diagnose and prescribe treatment all in the span of five minutes.  

The magnitude of the affects of your professionalism, etiquette and compassion in the physician’s office is significant in the public health industry. Whether you work in the public or private sectors of healthcare, your behavior can have a direct impact on a patient’s desire to seek care or treatment from that office or altogether. Therefore, the expectation of patients’ to receive respect, compassion and quality care from a Medical Assistant is not optional. As a first line of defense in healing, these qualities are a requirement.

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Asiyah Jafary M.S., RMA, CPT, is a Program Coordinator for the Medical Assisting Program at Rasmussen College in Romeoville. She has worked in the field of healthcare for more than 10 years. Jafary is also currently pursuing her doctorate in Public Health from Capella University. She strongly believes many interpersonal communication issues encountered in healthcare today can be fixed starting at one central source — the classroom.

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