16 Things Your Doctor’s Receptionist Knows About You

Updated: Jul. 12, 2018

You can't lie to us—we have your entire life in your medical file!

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We know when you’re trying to run a scam

Insurance fraud is more common than you think, especially when you consider that most of the people trying it don’t succeed, says Jaime, a receptionist at a surgery clinic. “I see people all the time trying to get Medicare or Medicaid when they’re not actually entitled to it or try to get something covered by their insurance that shouldn’t be,” he says. “I’ve had patients ask me to sign things without reading them or fax forged documents. Not happening.” Find out how to make the most of your doctor’s appointment.

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We know when you’re a real jerk even if you appear nice

“How people treat the receptionist, someone they often consider ‘lower’ than them, is a good indicator of who they really are,” says Mel, a medical office manager. Yelling at the office staff or being dismissive or otherwise rude shows your true colors and the doctor will hear about it, even if you’re nice to him or her, she adds. Do you know these 6 signs that your doc is a keeper (and 5 signs that he’s not)?

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We know if you suffer from anxiety

Chest pain is one of the most common reasons people call the front desk but it’s not often a true emergency, Jaime says. “Most often it’s someone having a panic attack or even heartburn but to be safe we have to tell everyone to go to the emergency room to get checked out,” he says. “I’ve gotten to know the ‘regulars’ though and sometimes I can help them calm down so they don’t need medical attention.”

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We know when work is crazy

Coming in to see the doctor usually isn’t at the top of anyone’s favorite things to do list so receptionists are pretty used to seeing people in a hurry or flustered, Mel says. That said, people who stand at the desk and tap their fingers or check every five minutes to see why they haven’t been seen yet are a whole other level of busy—not that that will help things move any faster, she says. “If there’s one thing I wish people really understood it’s how complex our computer systems are,” she adds.

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We know if you’re sexist

“People usually expect to see women behind the front desk but for the most part, patients treat me the same as my female colleagues,” Jaime says. “Although there are always a few, mostly men, who will assume I don’t know what I’m doing or ask when I’m going to get a ‘real’ job.” Check out the 10 secrets to finding a doctor you can trust.

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We know when you’re having problems in the bedroom

One of the primary tasks of medical office workers is coordinating prescriptions and pharmacies, Mel says. This means they pretty much know every issue you’re dealing with, including depression, weight problems, and yes, even erectile dysfunction. At least it’s not one of these craziest medical problems doctors have seen on the job.

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We know when you’re in a contentious custody battle

The divorce decree usually states which parent carries insurance for the kids and how much each parent is responsible for paying but it can get super complicated fast, Mel says. “I have a patient who hates her ex so much that she tried to bar him from getting information about his kids and tried to make us bill his insurance for the full amount every time,” she says. “She started screaming at me when I told her that legally I couldn’t do either of those things. You’d be shocked at how much medical billing specialists learn about divorce law!’

Patient examination table in a doctors office.
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We know when you’re not following the doctor’s orders

Receptionists find out a lot simply answering the office phone, says Jill, a medical office specialist. “I have to ask questions to figure out where to route your call or who to message about your problem and patients tell me everything, even though I’m not a nurse or a doctor,” she says. “So I’ve gotten good at knowing who didn’t take all their antibiotics or went back to work to soon after an illness or injury just based on their call.”

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We know when you’re hiding something

“You can learn a lot about a person just by watching the way they walk in, talk to you, and sit down,” Jill says. For instance, long sleeves in the summer may mean you’re hiding a skin condition, a limp may signal your arthritis has gotten worse, or refusing to sit down may mean you have something improper lodged up your anus (a situation that happens way more than you’d think), she adds. These are all the things your doctor can tell just by looking at you.

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We know when you hate doctors

Some people will wait far too long to come in and see the doctor, letting a condition that would be simple to treat turn into something that requires a major intervention or even surgery, Jaime says. “If you’re embarrassed or afraid or whatever, just talk to us, we’re here to help,” he adds. Here are the 8 mistakes doctors wish you’d stop making.

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We all know if you’re sleeping with the doctor

“I had one patient who would just waltz right past the front desk and go wait in the doctor’s office,” Jill says. “Sometimes she’d say she had a personal consult scheduled with him even if there was nothing on the calendar. It didn’t take long for us to figure out she and the doctor were having an affair. I felt bad for his wife.”

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We know when you’re getting divorced

One of the hardest parts of getting divorced is having to divide up all the little things, including stuff like medical bills and insurance. Because they deal with all the paperwork, medical office workers are sometimes one of the first to know about your split, Mel says. Just make sure you’re not saying any of these 17 common lies patients tell their doctors.

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We know when your credit card is maxed

Refusing to make a follow-up appointment, fill prescriptions, get a referral to a specialist, provide a cell phone number, or otherwise follow your doctor’s orders are all red flags that you might be having money problems and are skimping on healthcare, Jaime says. “You should always let us know when you’re having financial trouble, we can often help reduce your bill or at least set up a payment plan, but we never want you to go without getting the care you need,” he says.

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We know when you’ve lost your job

Because health insurance is so often tied to a person’s job, the doctor’s office can be one of the first people to know when you’ve been laid off or fired and lost your benefits, Jaime says. While you’re searching for a new job, make sure to avoid these 11 little bad health habits that can cause big problems.

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We know when you’re addicted to painkillers

“Sadly we get a lot of calls from people asking us to just call in some pain medication for them,” Mel says. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works and even refills require the doc’s approval. And no, telling the receptionist that the doctor “totally said it’s fine” isn’t good enough, she adds.

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We know when you’re high

“I had one patient call and ask me if I could have a pizza sent to his house via ambulance because he was super high and didn’t want to drive,” Jill says. “Obviously that’s going to be a hard no.” Props for not driving while under the influence, we guess? Read on for the medical tips doctors and nurses wish everyone knew.