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Medical Office AssistantInterview Questions

Position Summary

Medical office assistants are responsible for the administrative aspects of a medical practice, clinic, or hospital. They oversee the tracking and filing of medical records, billing and coding, scheduling, and insurance-related paperwork and correspondence. 

Medical office assistants need to be familiar with medical terminology and transcription so patient notes can be stored in permanent records. They also handle mail and email traffic, both in and out of the office.

 

Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a medical office assistant include:

  • Handling, filing, and updating patient records.
  • Processing and responding to mail and email correspondence.
  • Scheduling patient appointments to correspond to doctor availability.
  • Transcribing patient notes.
  • Handling insurance information and correspondence between patients and insurance companies.
  • Tracking both office- and medical-supply inventories. 

Skills

Skills required to be a medical office assistant include:

  • Interpersonal skills when working with doctors, receptionists, and patients.
  • Time-management skills.
  • Knowledge of medical terminology and supplies.
  • Working knowledge of medical insurance billing procedures.
  • Knowledge of medical record database procedures.
  • Appropriate IT skills for the medical field.

Qualifications

The qualifications for being a medical office assistant begin with a high school diploma or GED as well as two or more years of administrative experience. However, it’s possible to start in the field as a receptionist and gain experience. A job as a medical office assistant requires good time-management and interpersonal skills as well as a pleasant disposition when interacting with patients.

Salary

Salaries for Medical Office Assistants range between $27K to $46K, with the median being $37K.

Factors impacting the salary you receive as a Medical Office Assistants include:

  • Degrees (High School, Associates, Bachelors)
  • Location
  • Size and Type of the Organization
  • Reporting Structure (Seniority of the Office Administrator or Supervisor you report to, the size and type of the organization)
  • Level of performance - Exceeding Expectations

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Medical Office Assistant Interview Questions

Question: How would you describe your primary duty as a medical assistant?

Explanation: This is a general question the interviewer will use to begin the conversation, learn more about your background, and collect information they can use throughout the interview.  While it’s difficult to identify just one duty and medical assistant performs, your answer should focus on providing an exceptional patient experience.

Example: “As a medical office assistant, I perform a wide range of duties.  These are split between working with the patients and taking care of administrative tasks.  However, the most important thing I do is make sure that the patients receive the care they came into the office for, have all their questions answered, and leave feeling as though we’ve addressed all their needs.  Summarized, this is creating an exceptional patient experience.”


Question: How do you protect patients’ rights and adhere to healthcare confidentiality requirements?

Explanation: In a healthcare environment, one of the most important things a healthcare worker does is protect the patients’ rights and the confidentiality of their information.  The process for doing this is outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.) Your answer to this question should demonstrate your knowledge of the requirements and the steps you take to comply.

Example: “When working with patients, I make sure everything we do complies with the HIPAA guidelines.  Patient rights and patient confidentiality are utmost in my mind and are only second to the medical care we provide and the experience the patients have during their visit.  When collecting patient information, I do it in a private office.  I also update my password frequently to make sure nobody can access the information online.  The paper files I work with are locked in a cabinet and destroyed at the appropriate time.  Finally, I do not share any patient information unless specifically authorized by the patient or their representative.”


Question: What communication skills have you acquired which help you when working with patients?

Explanation: Anyone who works with the public should have good communication skills.  Some people come by this naturally, while others need to work at it.  Regardless of how you develop your communication skills, you should be able to discuss them, which is in itself a demonstration of your skills. 

Example: “Being able to communicate with my patients effectively is a key part of my job.  One of the most important aspects of communication is active listening.  Whenever I ask a question or the patient provides information, I make sure that I pay close attention to what they’re saying.  I then repeat it to make sure I understood them correctly before providing an answer.  I try not to use over-complicated language or complex words.  My emphasis is on accurate and helpful communication.”


Question: What would you do if the physician asked you to handle an administrative task, and at the same time, one of the nurses requested assistance with a patient?

Explanation: Medical office assistants are required to help the medical staff in a variety of different tasks and activities.  You are expected to be able to prioritize what is most important based on its urgency, necessity, and the time required to complete a task.  This question addresses the seniority of the physician and whether you would defer to them or do what is most important.

Example: “If I were asked by a physician and a nurse to help with conflicting tasks, the first thing I would do is to determine what is the most urgent or important request.  In this case, dealing with a patient usually takes precedence over handling an administrative task.  I would explain to the physician that the nurse required assistance with a patient and that I would return to complete the administrative  task as soon as we were finished.”


Question: What experience do you have with medical billing and coding?

Explanation: One of the key duties of a medical office assistant is to code patient records for medical billing.  This is how the office generates revenue and receives payment from the patient’s insurance company.  Doing this correctly is important because if it is done wrong, the insurance company will reject the claim, and the task will have to be repeated.  You should be able to discuss your experience in this area and possibly even provide an example.

Example: “Early in my career, I recognized the importance of accurate and effective medical billing and coding.  When I was first learning this, I made a lot of mistakes and had to redo the coding on my own time.  However, over time I’ve become familiar with the coding process and now can do it effortlessly and accurately.  This saves the office time and results in prompt and accurate insurance payments.”


Question: How would you proceed to do a blood draw on a patient who had a fear of needles?

Explanation: This is an operational question that seeks to understand how you perform a duty required by this position.  Operational questions are best answered directly and briefly.  You should anticipate follow-up questions to the site of inquiries.

Example: “When drawing blood from a patient who has expressed a fear of needles, I work hard to calm them down and relax them as much as I can.  I tell brief stories or even a joke to get their mind off of the procedure.  When I am ready to inject the needle, I try to distract them by pointing out something across the room.  Once their gaze is averted, I insert the needle with as much care as possible.  I have received feedback from patients that they hardly felt the prick when I do this.”


Question: Do you have experience taking patient histories, and can you do this electronically?

Explanation: Collecting patient information and taking their history is another critical job of a medical office assistant.  Your ability to do this both manually and electronically this critical to being qualified for the role.  You should be able to discuss this in great detail if required.  However, keep your first answer brief and allow the interviewer to ask a follow-up question if they need additional information.

Example: “Collecting patient information and their medical history is a critical part of this job.  I take great care to do this as accurately and quickly as possible.  I follow the format of the form I am using, whether it’s hard copy or electronic.  I review the information with the patient after we have completed the form to make sure it is accurate and that I did not miss anything.  Once this process is complete, I enter the information into our system.”


Question: What is your experience performing EKG tests?

Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand how you go about performing the duties required by this job.  Again, you should have experience in this area and be able to discuss how to perform this procedure.

Example: “I have a great deal of experience performing EKG tests.  The physician in my last clinic assigned these tests to me whenever they were required because of my expertise in this area.  One of the most challenging things in the procedures is attaching the sensors.  I sometimes need to shave the area where the sensors are attached and have become somewhat of an expert in this as well.”


Question: What is the first thing you would do if a patient were to faint or fall unconscious?

Explanation: Being able to react to emergencies in a medical office is critical to this job.  If you haven’t had this experience in the past, you should project what you would do if it were to occur while you were attending to a patient.

Example: “This has only happened to me once in my career.  I was drawing blood from a patient who was nervous about the procedure, and halfway through, they fainted.  The first thing I did was to make sure that they were in a stable position and could not harm themselves.  I then tried to revive them using words and gentle touching.  While doing this, I alerted the rest of the staff of the situation so they would be available to assist if necessary.  Fortunately, the patient recovered, and everything turned out well.”


Question: Do you keep your AED, CPR, and Emergency Treatment certifications current, and what is your plan for maintaining these?

Explanation: Medical office assistants need to maintain certain certifications in basic emergency medical procedures.  You should ensure that all your certifications are current before applying for any position.  Once you apply, you should have a plan in place for maintaining the currency of the certifications and be able to discuss it.

Example: “I am very conscientious about maintaining my medical certifications.  These include AED, CPR, and basic emergency response.  I keep the expiration dates for the certifications in my calendar with a 30-day advance notification.  Once I receive the notification, I take steps to re-educate myself in the procedures and then schedule the certifications at least a week before the current ones expire.”


Question: When answering a patient’s questions or providing them counseling, what is the main thing you are trying to accomplish?

Explanation: This is a follow-up question to the one about your communication skills.  During an interview, you should anticipate follow-up questions any time you provide an answer.  Follow-up questions should be answered in the same manner as the original question, briefly and directly.  The interviewer may ask multiple follow-up questions about a specific topic they are interested in.

Example: “Whenever I am communicating with a patient, my main objective is to make sure that we understand each other and that they are receiving the information they need.  I try to do this in a friendly manner, so I do not intimidate them.  I also ask them follow-up questions to make sure I communicated clearly and accurately and that they understand what I told them.  This helps to contribute to an overall positive patient experience.”


Additional Medical Office Assistant Interview Questions

  • Do you have any experience in administrative roles? Was it in medical administration?

  • What IT skills would you bring to the position?

  • Have you interned in the medical field before? If so, describe the experience.

  • Do you have experience checking patients in preparation for appointments?

  • Are you CPR certified?

  • Do you have experience taking blood from patients?

  • What medical recordkeeping software are you familiar with?

  • Have you ever encountered issues with patient records? If so, how were they resolved?

  • Have you ever had to deal with an upset patient? How did you handle the situation?

  • What have you done in the past to increase efficiency in the workplace?

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