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Chapter 3

The World of Health Care


Learning Objectives

When you complete the instruction in this chapter, you will be trained to:

  • Describe medical personnel and their role in quality health care.

  • Describe the personal qualities of a healthcare professional.

  • Describe the desirable character traits of a healthcare professional.


Introduction

In this chapter, you’ll study the key players in the healthcare field. You’ll look at a typical day in the life of several healthcare professionals. Finally, you will look at the personal qualities, teamwork and character traits of a successful healthcare professional. Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!


Teamwork in the Healthcare Profession

Let’s identify some of the key players in the healthcare profession and elaborate on what they do. In most professions, success comes from a team of people working together to accomplish goals. In medicine, physicians certainly cannot perform their jobs alone. Many people work hard, some behind the scenes, others more visibly, to ensure that the healthcare system runs properly. When you go to see the doctor, you don’t just see the doctor. You might see a number of professionals, including a receptionist or an office manager.

Throughout a visit, a doctor may talk to several staff people; all of these people are essential members of the medical care team.

Before moving on let’s review the difference between inpatient and outpatient coding. An inpatient setting is a facility, other than psychiatric, that providers diagnostic, therapeutic (both surgical and non-surgical) and rehabilitation services by or under the supervision of physicians to patients admitted for a variety of medical conditions. Meanwhile, an outpatient setting may be a provider’s office, urgent care center, emergency department or an outpatient surgical facility.

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Health Information Technology

HM101 Introduction

Physicians

Physicians or doctors are the most prominent members of the medical care team. They perform life-saving procedures. They cure the sick and help heal wounds. Becoming a doctor of medicine is one of the most challenging career paths a person can choose. Not only do physicians earn four-year college degrees, but they also must complete medical school and one or more residency assignments. During residency, 85- to 100-hour work weeks are common. Because of this huge commitment, doctors deservedly receive much of the attention in the medical field.

Let’s look at a medical service from the physician’s point of view.

Dr. Green is a physician who works at Weston Medical Clinic. He sees his first patient, Hannah, at 8 a.m. He examines Hannah, a woman in her mid-30s, complaining of pain to her right arm. A concise statement that describes why a patient is seeking treatment is called the chief complaint. Dr. Green documents the patient’s description of the development of the condition. Then, Dr. Green asks a series of questions to identify signs and symptoms that Hannah may be experiencing.

Next, Dr. Green does an examination and documents the objective findings. After the exam, Dr. Green recommends that x-rays be taken. The x-rays indicate a fracture. The physician’s opinion about what is wrong with the patient or what is causing the patient’s complaint is the diagnosis.

Finally, Dr. Green puts her arm in a cast, which is a procedure. A procedure is anything the physician does to determine a diagnosis and help the patient heal.

This sequence began with a complaint—“my arm hurts”— and was followed by a history and exam to determine the diagnosis aided by tests—a broken arm as seen on the x-ray. The sequence is completed with a service or procedure—the fracture care. Doctors perform one or more of these steps with every patient they see. And every time a doctor performs these duties, the steps must be recorded into the patient’s medical

record. The diagnosis and procedure, along with any tests done, eventually are transcribed, coded and billed.

After Dr. Green dismisses the patient, he records some notes about the encounter. Dr. Green also makes some notes on the patient’s history or chart. Now he is ready to see his second patient.


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In summary, physicians diagnose illnesses and injuries. They prescribe drugs to alleviate symptoms, treat conditions and ease pain. They rely on their training to make quality, accurate decisions. However, as good as physicians are, their staff ultimately supports them as they provide quality treatment. Nurses are one essential part of the medical staff.

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The World of Health Care

Nurses

As professionals who perform a variety of tasks in the medical world, nurses often must follow through with treatments physicians prescribe. Nurses can give injections and check a patient’s vital signs, as well as assist in surgery. It’s also true that nurses must often do the thankless jobs—cleaning up exam rooms and organizing supplies.

Without nurses, the number of patients a doctor sees in a day would drop dramatically. Nurses allow doctors to see more patients and focus on those patients who require the most care.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomer age and the need for health care grows.” Research this informaiton at http:// www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage as well as other sites and write a few paragraphs outlining your opinion and providing support for your opinion.


Nurse’s and Physician Assistants

Two other categories of personnel in the medical field are nurse’s and physician assistants. Nurse’s assistants, or nursing aides, help nurses with daily duties, such as paperwork, general organization and taking a patient’s temperature, weight and blood pressure. Some nurse’s assistants also talk to patients and make sure they’re comfortable.

Physician assistants or PAs are normally under the supervision of a doctor and can perform some of the same functions as a doctor. PA duties might include stitching up a cut, taking a patient history and even performing lab work.


Emergency Personnel

Emergency personnel are a group of professionals with the sole responsibility of providing immediate medical assistance and transporting the patient to the hospital for treatment. When someone is hurt and needs an ambulance, these people respond. Police officers, firefighters and other rescue professionals all have some level of medical training.

You have probably heard of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. EMTs take classes that enable them to stabilize patients who have a wide variety of emergency medical conditions. They are often members of ambulance crews and volunteer fire-fighting organizations. Paramedics have more training than EMTs. Paramedics are not only able to stabilize patients, but they can also begin treatments to cure patients, such as administering medication.


Support Staff

Physicians and nurses rely heavily on support staff to keep a medical office or clinic running smoothly. As you might guess, each of these positions plays an important role in the medical world.

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology

Office Professionals

Office professionals include office managers and receptionists. Without this staff, many medical offices would grind to a halt! These people organize schedules, record appointments and answer patient questions. Office staff members have terrific communication and organization skills. They also must make a good first impression. The office manager may be the first person a patient sees upon entering a medical office, and the manager’s attitude can mean the difference between a pleasant visit and a nightmare for the patient.


Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are not physician’s assistants. As you recall, a physician’s assistant works directly under the supervision of a physician to examine, diagnose and treat patients. A medical assistant performs two different types of duties: administrative and clinical.

A medical assistant may answer phones, greet patients, schedule appointments, call for laboratory services, arrange hospital admissions, handle medical records and manage bookkeeping services.

Medical assistants in different states are allowed to perform some kinds of clinical tasks, as well. Typically, they may take a patient’s blood pressure and weight, record a medical history and prepare patients for

the physician’s exam. They may directly assist the physician during the examination, explain a treatment procedure or instruct a patient about medication or special diets. Some medical assistants draw blood, collect and prepare other laboratory specimens, prepare patients for x-rays, change dressings, sterilize equipment and remove sutures.


Health Services Manager

A health services manager manages the services a healthcare facility provides, and might work for a group of physicians who have offices in several locations. Health services managers may be in charge of an outpatient service within a larger healthcare facility. Today, many healthcare providers form arrangements to offer a full set of health services under one roof, which requires a different kind of management than found in a large specialty practice. Also, preventing health problems is becoming more important, and this focus on prevention changes the role of healthcare providers as well as the management of healthcare services. So, as you can see, the potential roles of health services managers are very diverse!


Patient Care Technician

Patient care involves caring for the physically and mentally ill, as well as injured or disabled individuals and those in hospitals, nursing homes and mental healthcare facilities. Patient care technicians (PCTs) assist patients with eating, dressing, bathing, skin care and walking. They also turn, reposition and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs. Home healthcare aides are PCTs who visit clients’ homes to assist them with activities they can no longer perform alone. A PCT may help these patients with personal needs like grooming and eating, or with household tasks like cleaning and shopping.

Most importantly, patient care technicians monitor patients’ physical, mental and emotional needs. PCTs are care givers, so they are extremely valuable in the healthcare field; they are truly on the front lines of patient care.

Patient care technicians may complete specialized training either on the job or through classes and self-study courses. In addition, certain specialties require certifications in psychiatrics, mental health, geriatrics or home health care.

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The World of Health Care

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy is a science—the science of preparing and dispensing medications and information about medications. Pharmacists are professionals who perform these services. They ensure that people receive the proper medications for their health problems, and they provide information about these medications.

Today, pharmacy is an important part of the total healthcare process, although pharmacists are not physicians. In the United States, physicians may provide samples of medications, but they don’t fill ongoing prescriptions for their patients. Similarly, pharmacists don’t diagnose diseases or prescribe medications—that is the physician’s role. Note that, pharmacy professionals aren’t pharmacologists.

Pharmacologists research drugs and the ways drugs act in the human body. They also develop new drugs and demonstrate that these drugs are safe and effective for patients. Pharmacy professionals improve the quality of life for patients because the medications they provide help cure and prevent disease. Pharmacy professionals also put a human face on health care. Patients may not see their physicians for longer than ten minutes at a typical visit. However, at the pharmacy, patients can ask questions and receive answers that are specific to their own situations.

The pharmacy technician is one of the most valuable resources in the pharmacy profession. Demands in the pharmacy profession are growing as the population ages and faces increasing health problems. Pharmaceutical companies must continue to develop, test and produce new and improved drugs to treat these health issues. The number of pharmacists is also increasing, but the number of prescriptions that they must fill is increasing far faster! Computerized systems may help pharmacists handle part of the workload, but computers cannot do everything. Humans are still better at performing many tasks, which is why the pharmacy technician is an increasingly important professional in the healthcare field.


Medical Transcriptionists and Editors

Do you remember when the doctor in the previous example recorded some notes about a patient encounter? Well, that dictation went to a medical transcriptionist who listened to the doctor’s dictation and typed what she heard. This then was added to the patient’s medical record. By using transcriptionists, doctors save time by speaking their notes. Some medical transcriptionists also serve as medical editors. Medical editors listen to the doctors’ spoken notes while editing rough reports that a speech recognition program produced based on the doctors’ dictation.


Medical Coding Specialists

Medical coding specialists assign medical codes to the information obtained from a patient’s visit to a medical facility. Each patient’s diagnosis, treatment and tests must be coded. The medical coding specialist gets the medical report that the physician dictated and the transcriptionist created. This employee examines the diagnosis and the treatment performed and assigns codes to each one. Coding requires the medical coding specialist to look up the information in a reference book and find the right set of numeric or alphanumeric codes that describes exactly what occurred during the patient’s visit.


Medical Billing Specialists

Medical billing specialists are a perfect example of how interrelated one job is to the next in a medical office. Remember, medical coding specialists assign appropriate codes describing what occurs during a patient’s medical visit, while medical billing specialists use the codes that a medical coder assigns to complete

the insurance forms. These forms are necessary to collect payment from the insurance companies. Billing specialists know that the provider doesn’t get paid unless the form is completed and filed correctly.

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology


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Find a bill or statement you received for medical care. Are there any codes listed? If yes, do you know what they stand for or what you were charged for? If you did not understand the charges, is there a phone number to contact with questions? What other information is located on the bill or statement?


Healthcare Professionals

Now that you know a bit about team players involved in healthcare, let’s build on that knowledge. You’ll take a look at different healthcare professionals, following them through a portion of a day so that you can get an idea as to the environments they work in and the tasks they must complete. Keep in mind these are very general examples.


Medical Assistant

Holly is a medical assistant for a family medical practice with two doctors, Carla Matthews and Summer Gray. Holly arrives at work and sees the office manager, Maggie, pulling today’s charts for the scheduled patients.

Maggie is generally the first person to greet patients, but if she is out sick, Holly’s administrative skills allow her to fulfill Maggie’s duties. Holly helps Maggie work through the charts to ensure that the appropriate lab and x-ray reports are there as well.

Maggie also asks Holly to perform the monthly audit of expiration dates on pharmaceutical samples over the course of the week. Holly knows how important it is to monitor these drugs. Out-of-date drugs can chemically change or lose their beneficial effects.

By this time, several patients have arrived and checked in with Maggie. Holly shows each patient to an examination room when the doctor is ready. Meanwhile, Maggie informs Holly that one of Dr. Matthews’ patients, Jill, is on her way to the office with possible strep throat.

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The World of Health Care

Holly knows that she will need to get Jill’s vital signs upon arrival and prepare a room for an exam of Jill’s head, ears, neck, nose and throat. She also anticipates that Dr. Matthews will ask her to perform a strep culture of Jill’s throat. Holly prepares the exam room by setting out the otoscope, tongue blades and cotton applicators.

When Jill arrives, Holly leads her to the exam room and takes her vital signs. She immediately notes that Jill’s oral temperature is elevated at 100.2 °F. Her blood pressure is 102/70, her pulse is 72 and her respirations

are 20. Next, Holly asks Jill about her symptoms. Jill complains of a sore throat as well as a runny nose, left earache and cough productive of white mucus. Holly knows that Dr. Matthews will also listen to Jill’s lung sounds because of her cough, so she gives Jill a gown and asks her to remove the clothing on her upper body so that her breath sounds will be clear.

Holly records these findings in Jill’s chart, and then notifies Dr. Matthews that her patient is ready for her exam. Dr. Matthews emerges from the exam room and asks Holly to perform a throat culture on Jill.

She wants Holly to do a rapid screen so that she will know the results immediately and can prescribe the appropriate medication for her, if necessary. A rapid screen is the test for strep throat that Holly can perform in the office while the patient is there.

Holly gathers the rapid screen test kit and re-enters the exam room. Holly explains what she will do, puts on gloves and asks Jill to open her mouth. She places a tongue blade on Jill’s tongue. At the same time, she uses a sterile, cotton-tipped applicator in her other hand to swab Jill’s throat, being careful to include both sides and the center of her throat. Holly then swabs the material onto the test kit and returns it to the lab to interpret the results. She tells Jill that she may get dressed while she waits for the results.

In the lab, Holly informs Dr. Matthews that the results are negative; Jill does not have a strep infection in her throat. She records this result on a lab sheet to put into Jill’s chart. Dr. Matthews returns to the exam room to diagnose Jill with a common viral upper respiratory infection. She instructs Jill to use salt water rinses and acetaminophen for her low-grade fever and discomfort; she prescribes an over-the-counter medication to help with her runny nose. She instructs Jill to call if her temperature goes higher than 102 °F or if she does not feel better in five days. After the patient leaves, Holly hears Dr. Matthews dictating a report of the encounter.


Patient Care Technician

Paul is a patient care technician who has worked with elderly patients for the past 20 years. Paul works in a long-term care facility and performs many different tasks. He realizes the importance of setting priorities each day. Sometimes, he has to decide which tasks are most important.

Paul cares for six residents. He spends time visiting with them as he takes their vital signs, charts their food intake, helps them with grooming and personal hygiene and tidies their rooms. Paul also assists with the facility’s animal therapy program, which is one of his favorite duties at work. A local organization brings dogs to visit with patients as part of this program. These are not ordinary dogs—they are certified therapy dogs, and have passed behavioral evaluations and a training program.

Paul enjoys seeing his residents brighten and relax when they are around the dogs, but his duties extend further. He transfers residents to the cafeteria, the recreation room or wherever else they need to go. Paul must know the correct procedure for helping each resident with mobility issues—some use canes or walkers and others use wheelchairs.

Paul can also assist residents with feeding and bathing. Paul’s resident, Isabel, needs help with personal hygiene—she likes to do her hair and put on a little makeup each morning, but her hands shake so much that she can’t manage it alone. Paul assists her with cleaning and grooming after he has charted her vital signs and food intake.

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology

Paul’s next stop is with his favorite resident, Jane. She reminds him so much of his grandmother; she enjoys telling stories about her girlhood during the Great Depression. Today, Paul notices that Jane seems lonely and wants to talk. Paul only has a few minutes, but he knows that even ten minutes will make a big difference to Jane.

In addition to these duties, Paul also performs certain daily tasks. He checks residents’ vital signs and informs the charge nurse of anything unusual. He assists residents who need help with their medications and visits with others.

Find a local animal therapy program. You should be able to locate a program by searching online, calling your local hospital or looking in a phone book. Contact the program, and interview an owner of a therapy animal to ask about the purposes, benefits and other aspects of such a program. Write a report outlining what you learned.


Pharmacy Technician

Danielle works in a pharmacy that is part of a retail store. She arrives at the pharmacy at 8:45 a.m. to start work at 9:00 a.m. sharp. Danielle handles the computer’s interactive voice response (IVR) system. Patients call the pharmacy with refill requests. The computer software lines up the calls in the pharmacy’s order queue, and Danielle begins the process. Today, 45 patients have called to request refills. Some days, only 20 patients call. Other days, more than 60 patients call!

Danielle downloads all of the calls and then prepares to fill the prescriptions. The IVR system produces paperwork for each prescription, so she puts this paper into a bag. She then goes to the medication storage shelves and removes the proper medications. Danielle counts the pills and puts them into vials. She puts labels on the vials, along with other special instructions.

The labels may specify “take with meals,” “for use in eyes only” or other specific details. Danielle fills each prescription and then leaves it on the counter. Ray, the pharmacist, knows to double-check the orders that are on the counter. Danielle does this for every drug refill call that the pharmacy receives. Then, she goes to the fax machine. Doctors often fax prescriptions while the pharmacy is closed. Danielle fills those prescriptions and leaves them for Ray, too.

So far, it has been a slow morning. No patients were waiting for the pharmacy to open. However, a customer comes to the window when Danielle is halfway through her morning prescriptions. Terri, the customer, had surgery on her hand last week and wants a refill for her painkiller prescription. Danielle checks the prescription; it specifies “no refills.” Danielle politely tells Terri that she needs the physician’s approval before she can refill the prescription. Terri asks to see Danielle’s boss for further information, so Ray comes to talk to Terri.

Danielle goes back to her other prescriptions while Ray confirms to Terri that the pharmacy cannot refill the prescription. He offers to call Terri’s physician to request a refill. Terri is grateful for Ray’s offer, and confirms that he may call the physician.

Danielle finishes filling the prescriptions, and then takes a half-hour lunch break. When she returns to work, she accepts the pharmacy’s drug order for that day. She removes the drugs from the shipping boxes and puts identification stickers on them. Then, she puts each drug onto the shelves in the proper locations.

Finally, Danielle’s six-hour shift is nearly finished. For the last hour, she completes any tasks that still remain. Some days, she faxes refill requests to physicians. Other times, she pulls expired drugs from their shelves. She checks the over-the-counter diabetic supplies that the store sells, and orders any supplies that are running low. She even takes out the trash and boxes overstock items to return. In addition, she always stops to help customers who come in for prescriptions.

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The World of Health Care

Medical Transcriptionist/Editor

Taylor is the medical transcriptionist and editor for Weston Medical Clinic and has worked as a medical transcriptionist for about 10 years. Before Weston, she worked with a transcription company that had several doctor’s offices and medical facilities in different parts of the country. Taylor has seen the change in the medical transcription field and has moved from transcribing audio tapes from offices in her area to transcribing digital sound files for facilities in other states. Now she works from home as a medical transcriptionist and editor for Weston Medical Clinic. Let’s take a look at a typical day for Taylor.

Taylor wakes up and heads downstairs to her home office by 8 a.m. Taylor logs onto the shared drive to which all the transcriptionists have access. Every doctor at the clinic has a folder on the shared drive. Each physician carries around digital hand-held devices and dictates information directly into it. These sound files are then loaded onto the shared drive and saved into the corresponding doctor’s folders. Taylor opens up one of the sound files that she needs to transcribe. She uses a special program that is connected to the patients’ electronic health records (EHRs), which are computerized medical records. After Taylor is finished typing it, she saves

it to the patient’s chart on the computer and moves the sound file into a folder for the finished reports. Once the transcribed report is saved in the patient’s chart, it goes back to the physician for a signature. The physician opens up the report and signs it electronically. Then Taylor is ready to start another report!

Some of Taylor’s doctors use speech recognition technology (SRT) to transcribe reports. The SRT program takes the physician’s dictation and creates a rough report. Taylor listens to the dictation and follows along with the report to make sure it’s accurate. Taylor edits as necessary and puts the report in the correct format.

Taylor appreciates this technology because she doesn’t have to type all of the physician’s notes, and it has created a new role for transcriptionists. Most of the time, Taylor only has to alter portions of the report as she carefully edits it. Taylor also appreciates the time the technology saves; she can work from home because she can access the files and programs she needs electronically!


Medical Coding Specialist

Marge is the medical coding specialist for Weston Medical Clinic. Like Taylor, she works at home. After getting her children off to school and refreshing her cup of coffee, Marge heads to her home office, ready to start her day! At Weston Medical Clinic, the coding specialist is one day behind the reception area. For instance, the medical coding specialist works on Tuesday’s medical records on Wednesday, Wednesday’s medical records on Thursday and so on.

Marge logs onto her computer with her password and downloads the report that Taylor created and saved to the EHR. Marge spends most of the remainder of the day reading reports to assign the correct diagnoses and treatments. After assigning the codes to a record, Marge saves the EHR and moves to the next record.

Just before her children arrive home from school, Marge receives a phone call from Joann, Weston Medical Clinic’s billing specialist. Joann has received denial for a claim and asks Marge to pull up the record to check for accurate coding. Marge reviews the record and notes the numbers for the code were transposed. She provides the correct code for Joann to resubmit the claim.

By the end of the day, Marge has completed the coding for all of the services performed at Weston Medical Clinic the previous day.

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology

Medical Billing Specialist

Joann is the billing specialist for Weston Medical Clinic. She usually starts the day by going through the claims that are still outstanding, which are bills that haven’t been paid yet. For this clinic, most of these outstanding claims are waiting for insurance payments. The others are due either from patients who don’t have insurance or from patients who need to pay the remaining portions of the bills that their insurance policies did not cover.

A few of the insurance claims are late in being paid, so Joann starts calling the individual insurance companies, trying to track down each claim. It takes two hours for her to work through 10 claims. This type of follow-up is very important for the clinic. It prevents any claim from “slipping through the cracks” of the insurance world. After getting a better idea of when to expect payment for the 10 claims, Joann works on the individual claims or those that have a balance due from the patient.

Joann checks the individual claims for the time of notification to determine how long it has been since each person received the bill. She marks those that are 60 or more days past due. These people will soon receive another reminder requesting payment.

Finally, Joann is ready to work on creating claims for the services that have been coded by Marge. Joann checks the patient information to make sure that the patient included all necessary information, including the name, address, insurance company and policy number. After making sure all the information is correct, she transfers the codes to an insurance claim form. By 4:30 p.m., Joann has processed the claims. They will be submitted to their respective insurance companies, and the clinic waits for payment.

By reading about the work of these healthcare professionals, you now have an idea of what the healthcare support staff does every day. Let’s continue by studying some general responsibilities.


Responsibilities

You just read about the work of medical coders, billers, transcriptionists and editors. Keep in mind that the support staff may perform any or all of the same tasks as these professionals. Healthcare support staff have five basic responsibilities:

  1. Transcribe/Edit Dictation.

    Create reports by transcribing digital voice files into a medical record, or by editing text that has been created by computer software systems.

  2. Code Records.

    Read the medical record to determine the diagnoses and procedures that apply. Reference manuals are used to assign codes to represent the diagnoses and procedures.

  3. Complete and Submit Insurance Claim Forms.

    Complete and submit the appropriate insurance claim form.

  4. Follow Up on Claims and Bills.

    Follow up with the insurance company regarding the claim and/or follow up with patients to secure payment.

  5. Secondary Insurance Claims and Patient Billing.

Submit a bill to the secondary carrier. If the patient does not have secondary insurance, then the patient may be responsible for paying whatever remains after the primary carrier has paid.

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Pick one of the healthcare positions mentioned in this chapter. Search online to find more information about that position. What did you like and dislike? Think about the position’s job requirements, daily tasks, salary rates, etc.


Practice Exercise 3-1

Select the best answer from the choices provided.

  1. The____may be the first person in the doctor’s office to see a patient.

    1. office manager

    2. doctor

    3. EMT

    4. medical coding specialist


  2. The_____can perform both administrative and clinical duties.

    1. medical assistant

    2. patient care technician

    3. medical transcriptionist

    4. health services manager


  3. The_____assists patients with transferring between the bed and wheelchair.

    1. nurse

    2. physician

    3. medical transcriptionist

    4. patient care technician


    Answer as directed.

  4. Describe the five basic responsibilities of the healthcare support staff.

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology

Review Practice Exercise 3-1

Check your answers with the Answer Key at the back of this book. Correct any mistakes you may have made.


Personal Qualities

If you think about it, there are a large number of potential clients available in most towns. Even small towns usually have one or two practices and a hospital. Many times qualified help is hard to find, and because you have a skill that is in great demand, you have the opportunity to make good money. Though salaries vary depending on experience, the number of hours worked and location, you’ll be pleased to discover the amount of money you can earn as a healthcare professional. Remember, that as your experience builds, you can add to your earnings while being a vital part of a medical team and doing work that helps people.

The main thing to remember when you approach a potential client or employer is that you are the best choice for the job. Your competence means money to your employers! You should remember and practice three qualities: professionalism, presentation and adaptability.


Professionalism

Professionalism is the conduct, aim or qualities that characterize a profession or professional person. As with any business, the image you project is important. You must be professional. Professionalism includes how you dress, talk and interact with your clients. When you have an initial meeting with potential clients, your level of professionalism will affect their impression of you.

When you select what to wear, be conservative but not bland. Your attire should be clean, wrinkle-free and professional. Try to choose something you feel comfortable wearing. If you are comfortable, you will be able to concentrate on other important things, such as your presentation and answering any questions your potential client may have. An uncomfortable outfit, whether in style, color or both, will distract you.

Let’s look at the following example to see how professionalism affects our choices.

Jane entered the Haber Dash Men’s Store to exchange a tie for her husband. As she approached the counter, she saw that two clerks were at either end. She noticed that one clerk wore a t-shirt and torn jeans and had a few visible piercings. The other clerk was dressed conservatively in black pants, a starched white shirt and a snazzy bow tie. In a split second, she decided who looked the most helpful. She thought the conservatively dressed clerk would be more sympathetic to her tie dilemma, so she approached him for assistance.

Has this ever happened to you? Perhaps if Jane wanted advice on which CD to buy for her son, the other clerk would have appeared more competent. While it may not be fair, Jane made a judgment based on how each employee looked. Of course, no two people look alike, but there are certain factors of appearance that are important in the work setting. This is especially true for a professional healthcare worker.

Another facet of professionalism is delivering what you promise. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Five minutes early is 10 minutes late.” Basically, this means if you have a meeting at 10 a.m., be 15 minutes early. Never be late, especially for a first-time interview. Such promptness shows you are responsible and considerate.

If your client is a little late, be understanding. Just make sure you aren’t the tardy one. When you are asked for work samples, be prepared. Explain what you know and how you gained your knowledge. If you ever are asked to complete a test task, do so promptly.

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Research “healthcare professionalism” and you’ll find a variety of definition, qualities and examples. Think back on your own experience and provide examples of positive and negative aspects of professionalism you’ve encountered.


Presentation

Presentation is the act of bringing or introducing something into the presence of someone else. Often your initial presentation will decide whether you gain a client or employer. In addition to being on time and dressed properly for the meeting, your presentation can go a long way in influencing your client-to-be—both positively and negatively.

Be sure to present a confident image. Your attitude should say, “I know what I’m doing” without being arrogant or condescending. Remember, this is the client’s money you’re talking about. Confidence is a must!


Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to be modified or changed. To be successful, you must be able to adapt for each client. Some people want tasks done a certain way. Others may have exactly the opposite requirements. Codes are updated annually. Insurance regulations change. Forms are altered. If you get too set in your ways, you might lose clients who require slightly different approaches.


Character Traits

What makes a top-notch healthcare professional? Let’s examine some of the most important character traits. You’ll be able to boast about these traits by the end of your course!


Curiosity and Drive

You need to have a true interest in the healthcare field. You demonstrated an interest by enrolling in this course! This includes the constant desire to follow the ever-changing face of medicine. As you progress in your field, be willing to open your mind to new information to learn new skills and change your life.


Warmth and Confidence

It’s important to appreciate the satisfaction of caring for others. You may interact with other people, such as coworkers, doctors and patients, and you can do so in a courteous, pleasant manner. Showing warmth and compassion will put patients at ease. As you begin your career, be confident in your abilities and understanding of the information you’re explaining.


Organizational and Professional Skills

A successful healthcare professional is a multi-tasker because she handles several responsibilities at once. Remember to make lists of things to do so you don’t forget any of your tasks for the day. As you start working, you’ll learn to keep charts and other paperwork organized so that you can find what you need at a moment’s notice. You’ll also realize that it’s important to keep your work area clean and tidy so there’s room to work and you don’t lose things. It’s also important to be able to prioritize, or decide which duties are most urgent. “Should I code Mrs. Smith’s record first, or should I follow up on insurance payments?”

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HM101 Introduction to Health Information Technology

As you can see, it’s important to keep organized and to prioritize.


Practice Exercise 3-2

Determine the term(s) to complete each sentence.

  1. A healthcare professional should exhibit three personal qualities:______,______and______.

  2. Presenting a(n)______ image is important.

  3. Handling several responsibilities at once is termed______.

  4. _______is the ability to be modified or changed.

  5. Answer as directed.

    Explain the most important character traits of a successful healthcare professional.


Review Practice Exercise 3-2

Check your answers with the Answer Key at the back of this book. Correct any mistakes you may have made.


Summary

Healthcare support staff are an important part of any medical setting because they are able to perform tasks such as coding, billing, transcription and editing. This chapter gave you a firm understanding as to what members of the healthcare team do. You’ll work with physicians, nurses, office managers and others to contribute to the best possible patient care.

We also discussed a few important points for you to remember as you move toward your new career. You learned the importance of professionalism, presentation and adaptability. Lastly, this chapter discussed the character traits of a successful healthcare professional.

As you continue with this course, you’ll see in greater detail just how important your role is to those who work in and rely on medical facilities. This career is in demand! You have started on an exciting path toward success.


Critical Thinking

As you move through this course, it is important that you take the time to think critically about what you’re learning. The following questions will allow you to study course material through discussions you may

have with other students, instructors or even family and friends. Be sure to read the questions and discuss them with others whenever possible as you work through the chapters. Doing so will further enhance your academic experience.

  1. Compare and contrast the different career opportunities for medical billing specialists. What are the challenges of working from home versus working in a medical office or hospital as a medical billing specialist? Which setting appeals more to you, and why? Which setting might have more distractions?

  2. What is the impact of technology on the medical transcription field? How are technological advances changing the role of medical transcriptionists? What are the key challenges involved with technology? Finally, do you think that technological advances will create any confidentiality concerns or challenges in medical transcription?

  3. Use the Internet to research resources available for healthcare professionals. Review at least one Web site. What did you learn from the site? What is the purpose of the online resource and the organization that maintains the Web site? How does it serve healthcare professionals?

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