With an aging population and more citizens gaining health insurance, the U.S. healthcare industry is growing. To meet this increasing demand, hospitals and clinics are hiring additional staff, including medical administrative professionals. One such role is the registration clerk, also referred to as patient registrar, intake clerk, patient access representative, patient coordinator/scheduler or admissions clerk.
If you are highly organized, adept at processes and arranging schedules, and have an interest in medical terminology, a career in the field of healthcare access management could be a good fit for you.
Why are patient registration clerks needed?
Admissions clerks are the usual first point of contact for patients, and they act as both receptionists and medical secretaries. Efficient registration is important for medical facilities, as it ensures the smooth flow of patients through the healthcare system. What’s more, accurate intake means properly processed paperwork, which ensures prompt payments from insurance companies.
What are the daily responsibilities and job duties?
Registration clerks wear several hats. They greet patients and their families when they arrive at a hospital, clinic or medical office. As the job title suggests, these clerks lead patients through the signing-in process, ensuring they fill out and sign all necessary forms. They ask pertinent questions and make sure all patient information, including insurance plan details, is correct and up to date. They also confirm physician referrals and ensure authorizations are in order.
When all the necessary information has been gathered, they enter it into the healthcare facility’s computer system. Admissions clerks print out identification labels for patient charts and, in a hospital setting, create ID bracelets. In a large facility, these administrative specialists direct patients to where they need to go. In smaller clinics, intake clerks may be asked to perform basic medical measurements, such as height, weight and blood pressure.
Another part of the job for patient registration clerks is to set up appointments, preregister patients, create accounts and send out appointment reminders. By phone or in person, intake clerks answer patients’ non-medical questions regarding test results, insurance, co-pays and payment options, and follow-up appointments.
Because registration clerks deal with the financial side of the healthcare business, they are in frequent contact with patients, private insurance companies and — for participating facilities — Medicaid and Medicare. These specialists check patients’ insurance network and eligibility, submit paperwork for reimbursements and receive co-pays and payments. If patients and their families are unable to meet their financial obligations, registration specialists refer them to resources for financial counseling and assistance.
Use our Salary Calculator to customize the salary for an admissions clerk in your specific city.
What qualifications do employers seek for this role?
For the majority of patient registration roles, a high school diploma or equivalent is sufficient. Some employers prefer candidates with a relevant associate’s degree, such as in health information technology. Offered by some business and vocational schools, the curriculum includes medical and insurance terminology, computer skills, data entry and management, customer service training and methods of reimbursement. Programs approved by the internationally recognized Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM) can help you stand out from the competition during a job search.
If you’re serious about going further in this field, you could work toward a certification. The National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) offers two tracks: the Certified Healthcare Access Associate (CHAA) and the more advanced Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM). To be eligible for either exam, applicants are required to have either medical or financial experience, or a post-secondary degree in a relevant field.
As for technical skills, employers seek candidates who understand medical terminology, have an aptitude for technology and data management, and can keep on top of the ever-changing field of healthcare legislation.
How important are soft skills?
Extremely. In fact, emotional intelligence is at the heart of this medical administrative job. In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand others’ points of view and to treat patients with the compassion and dignity they deserve. Registration clerks encounter people in need of medical care, and some of them are very ill. These professionals help to ensure a positive experience under trying and stressful circumstances.
Registration clerks must also be organized and detail-oriented. As they collect and enter patient information, their accuracy means patients won’t face delays and insurance reimbursements will be paid promptly. And because these professionals deal with sensitive personal information, such as health status and diagnoses, keeping what they find confidential is a key character trait for this role.
Being the first point of contact for patients, registrars need exceptional verbal communication skills. The best people in this role are calm, efficient and diplomatic, even when under pressure. Because patients come from all walks of life, registrars should be comfortable interacting with a diverse population — from neonatal to geriatric patients, indigent to wealthy. Fluency in a second language is very helpful.
Patient access clerks should be highly adaptable, as the healthcare and insurance fields do not stand still. Lawmakers pass new legislation, providers move in and out of networks, and reimbursement rates go up and down. These professionals must be open to changes in their workflow and processes.
How much does a patient registration clerk make?
According to the 2018 OfficeTeam Salary Guide, the salary midpoint for a patient registration/intake/admissions clerk is $30,000.
Find a patient registration clerk job
Skilled patient registration clerks are in demand in cities across the United States. See our open patient registration clerk jobs in these hot cities: