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How to Become a Patient Service Representative

Learn how to become a patient service representative. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in patient services. View article »

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Video Transcript

Patient Service Representatives

A patient service representative, also known as a patient care representative, medical secretary, or medical assistant, works as a front desk customer-service agent in a medical office or hospital setting. Though state regulations can influence the extent of a patient service representative's duties, most are responsible for written and verbal correspondence, scheduling, collecting co-payments, maintaining patient charts, verifying insurance coverage, and ensuring overall patient satisfaction.

Medical assistants, one of the most popular titles among patient service representatives, usually work full-time in medical care settings, such as doctors' offices and clinics. Those that are employed by 24-hour care centers, like hospitals, may work evening, night, weekend, or on-call hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; some employers or states may require training through an accredited institution in the form of a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree program
Degree Field Medical assisting or a related field
Certification Some employers prefer to hire certified individuals
Experience Entry level; no experience typically necessary
Key Skills Good communication and interpersonal skills, ability to analyze medical charts and records, attention to detail, strong stress management skills, basic knowledge of computers and an understanding of how to use electronic health records system; if applicable to job setting, ability to properly use basic medical instruments, such as a blood pressure cuff
Salary (2016) $32,639 yearly (median salary for patient services representatives)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com

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Be a Patient Service Representative

Step 1: Attain a Certificate or Associate's Degree

Patient service representatives should have a high school diploma, but depending on the type of position, additional training may be necessary. Many technical and community colleges offer certificate or associate's degree programs in medical assisting, which provide a more advanced academic background and experience for an aspiring patient service representative.

These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete. Courses may cover advanced anatomy, medical terminology, medical records, health insurance compliance, and basic office organization. Some programs include a practicum for students to get hands-on training with local clinics. This allows a student to practice new skills, gain familiarity with medical office layouts and make contacts for future employment.

When choosing a postsecondary institution, it's advisable to look for one that has a program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This is important, because most certification agencies only accept candidates who possess a certificate or degree from an accredited academic program.

Step 2: Get Certified

Though not required in all facilities, graduates of an accredited medical assisting program, including practicum, might also consider pursuing the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). After a certification exam, CMAs must take continuing education courses in medical office administration and clerical skills to maintain their certification.

Individuals seeking certification should be sure to properly prepare for the exam. Because certification requires the administering and passing of an exam, you'll want to become familiar with the material that will be addressed. The AAMA offers practice exams in anatomy and physiology and medical terminology and can direct you to where you can take a CMA test review course.

Step 3: Advance by Specializing

Since patients are seen in a wide variety of medical settings, patient service representatives can use their skills in dentist offices, clinics, hospitals, and optometrist offices. With several years of experience in a specific medical setting, a patient service representative can advance to a higher-level position with more responsibilities.

Aspiring patient service representatives should consider enrolling in an accredited certificate or associate's degree program in medical assisting, though a high school education might be sufficient for some employers.

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