Healthcare Career Spotlight: the Medical Office Assistant

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A medical office assistant, also known as an administrative medical assistant or front office medical assistant, is a multifaceted allied healthcare professional whose primary function is to ensure that the front office area of physicians’ offices, clinics, medical groups and hospital units runs smoothly. A competent medical office assistant puts an array of soft interpersonal skills and hard procedural skills to use every single workday to get the job done.

Medical office assistants are vital members of the healthcare team because without their varied skill set, many healthcare settings would have difficulty managing day to day operations. In general, the medical office assistant tends to be the very first individual with whom patients, clients vendors and visitors come into contact at most physicians’ offices and clinic settings. Thus, these multi-skilled healthcare workers serve as the front line backbones of many workplace settings.

The allied health occupation of front office medical assisting has expanded greatly over the past few decades. Therefore, the role of the typical medical office assistant has also expanded to keep up with modern times.  Medical office assistants complete tasks such as scheduling patients’ appointments, greeting and checking patients and visitors in, coordinating visits with guests such as pharmaceutical representatives, and contacting vendors to reorder supplies.

Medical office assistants may also be responsible for clerical duties such as computer data entry, conducting phone interviews, verifying clients’ personal health information, obtaining signatures on new patient forms, sending faxes, compiling charts, filing paperwork, scanning documents, maintaining the orderly appearance of the reception area, and ensuring that diagnostic results reach the appropriate healthcare providers.

Depending on the policies of the specific workplace, many medical office assistants also carry out tasks that are either directly or indirectly related to monetary collection. Some of these duties may include gathering information on health insurance payer sources, processing payments in exchange for healthcare services, generating receipts, making patients aware of co-payment and/or coinsurance amounts, scanning documents such as insurance cards, and setting up payment plans.

Since the field of medical assisting entails intensive contact with people, medical office assistants need to be extremely comfortable interacting with a variety of individuals including patients, physicians, coworkers, visitors, families, vendors and others. The role of a medical office assistant necessitates effective communication skills. In addition, medical office assistants must have the ability to quickly establish trust and cooperation with the multitude of people who visit the healthcare setting on a daily basis.

Medical office assistants are employed primarily in workplaces such as clinics, multi-specialty medical group practices, acute care hospital wards, physicians’ offices, and ambulatory surgical centers. After amassing several years of experience, some medical assistants secure employment as medical office assistant instructors at trade schools, community colleges, technical colleges, and private for-profit academies.

Persons with an interest in entering this career pathway must usually have a high school diploma or G.E.D. before completing a training program in medical assisting that results in a postsecondary certificate, diploma or associate of applied science degree. Medical office assistant diploma and certificate programs are typically less than one year long. On the other hand, programs that lead to an associate of applied science degree generally take two years to complete from start to finish.

Medical office assistant career training programs are offered at several different types of postsecondary schools such as technical colleges, community colleges, trade schools, state universities, vocational schools, adult education centers, regional occupational programs and private for-profit academies.

Most employers prefer to hire medical office assistants who possess a professional certification. As a result, a number of entities will certify the medical assistant’s vast fund of knowledge. The National Healthcareer Association, the National Center for Competency Testing and the American Medical Certification Association are three different entities that offer professional certification to medical office assistants.

Furthermore, medical office assistants remain in high demand in many employment markets for the near future. Employment of medical assistants is projected to increase by approximately 29 percent through the year 2026, which happens to be much faster than the average for all occupations. Much of this job growth is driven by grand openings and expansions of doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics and multi-specialty group practices.

 

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