A well-run and efficient office within a medical practice, clinic or other healthcare setting is vital to the success of the practice and to the quality of the healthcare services they provide. Medical administrative assistants, the individuals behind the desk and behind-the-scenes, provide the administrative support necessary to ensure that all patients receive the highest quality of care and service.
The Roles and Duties of the Medical Administrative Assistant
Medical administrative assistants, also referred to as medical office assistants, may be responsible for all office duties, including accounting, billing, charting, medical transcription, patient scheduling, and filing insurance claims. These medical support professionals are typically the first point of contact with patients, greeting them and taking initial information, including contact and insurance information.
Other typical duties of a medical office assistant include:
- Managing and updating patient records
- Greeting patients
- Making appointments
- Maintaining the front desk and reception areas
- Performing general accounting and billing services
- Transcribing treatment notes
- Arranging for patient hospitalization
- Processing insurance forms
- Overseeing office and medical supplies inventory
- Managing email and mail traffic
In large settings, such as hospitals, the role of the medical office assistant is likely to be specialized. For example, one or more medical office assistants may be responsible for accounting and record keeping, while another medical assistant may be solely responsible for insurance billing.
Medical office assistants in clinical settings, on the other hand, may handle patient traffic for wellness appointments and specialty screenings, working a more predictable and organized routine.
In smaller settings, such as physician practices, medical office assistants are less likely to have clearly defined roles, with these medical support professionals handling any number of administrative tasks throughout the day.
Medical Office Assistant Skills
An efficient and organized medical office, hospital department, or ambulatory care center relies on superb medical office assistants who ensure that the business operates efficiently with minimal interruption of the physician’s day. As such, medical office assistant jobs require excellent written and oral communication skills. Because medical office assistants are often the first point of contact between a patient and the medical office, they must be pleasant, congenial, and well-mannered.
Medical office assistant jobs also involve possessing excellent phone etiquette. They must always remain calm and friendly to patients, even those who are stressed, anxious, or difficult to manage. Further, because much of the work of medical office assistants is now performed using computer systems, these jobs involve being proficient with technology.
A successful medical office assistant also possesses a solid understanding of:
- Medical terminology
- Industry software applications
- Accounting procedures
- Insurance billing procedures
- Medical ethics and laws
Requirements to Become a Medical Office Assistant
Due to the complexities of the healthcare industry and its related technology, many practices and healthcare facilities demand medical office assistants who have completed a medical assistant training and education program, or medical administrative assistant programs, in lieu of standard office support worker programs.
Although a general medical assistant program at the certificate, diploma, or associate degree level provides a comprehensive education in both the clinical and administrative aspects of the medical assistant profession, individuals who want to focus their careers solely on medical administration may choose to complete an accredited medical administrative assistant program.
This type of medical assistant program is therefore focused on topics such as:
- Medical terminology
- Medical law and ethics
- Interpersonal professional communications
- Anatomy and physiology for medical offices
- Office accounting
- Medical office procedures
- Software applications
- Healthcare coding
- Medical transcription
Students in a medical administrative assistant program also often receive instruction in:
- Medical malpractice and medical practice specialties
- Medical records management
- Confidentiality of the medical record
- Personnel management and communication
- Fraud abuse and compliance
- Documentation and risk assessment
- Technology in the healthcare environment
- Responsibilities of the office manager
- Abbreviations and symbols used in the medical office
- Medical accounting, financial statements, cost analysis, and budgeting
- Patient bill of rights and confidentiality
- Professional fees, billing and collecting procedures, credit arrangements
- Specialty office responsibilities
- Office policy and procedure manual
- Ordering supplies and equipment
- Federal and state regulations
- Medical emergencies
Following the completion of a medical office assistant program and an externship, the next logical step for many aspiring medical office assistants is to pursue national certification as a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) through the National Healthcareer Association.
Other recognized credentials for medical office assistants include the American Association of Medical Assistants, Certified Medical Assistant credential and the American Medical Technologists, Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).