Behind every well-organized healthcare practice is a medical office assistant. These superstar support specialists keep things running smoothly by tackling the many administrative tasks that are an important part of every patient visit. Students interested in a rewarding career in healthcare can train to become a medical office assistant in as little as 6 months. During schooling, externships and on the job, the students will build the right blend of practical and soft skills to be successful as a medical office assistant.
Skill #1: Computer Savvy
Computers have revolutionized healthcare. Today’s modern practices use advanced software for storing medical records and submitting insurance claims. A medical office assistant will use a computer to manage most tasks throughout the day as well as typical office equipment like business calculators, copiers, fax machines and multi-line phone systems. Vocational school training programs cover practice management software and improving basic keyboard skills as being comfortable using computers is a must.
Skill #2: Good Communication
Medical office assistants are a client’s primary point of contact with their physician, so having good communication skills is essential. From fielding telephone calls and scheduling appointments to checking patients in and out, a medical office assistant is usually the first and last person a patient talks to when they visit.
As a representative of the entire healthcare team, a medical office assistant must be knowledgeable, friendly and approachable. They should be able to express their thoughts confidently both verbally and in writing. Professionalism is vital.
Skill #3: Organizational Knowledge
Medical offices are fast-paced environments, and support staff should be able to multitask without losing focus. A medical office assistant manages a broad range of administrative responsibilities that are similar from day to day, but they also need to shift gears quickly when emergencies arise. It’s not always easy, but possessing good organizational skills prevent difficult situations from becoming overwhelming.
Skill #4: Compassion
Being compassionate means having a genuine sensitivity to the needs of others. Every day, medical office assistants work with physically and emotionally vulnerable people from a variety of ages and backgrounds. Since a client’s well-being is the focus of everything they do, a deep sense of compassion and a desire to assist those in need is necessary to keep things in perspective.
Skill #5: Personal Accountability
Few fields demand as much personal accountability as healthcare. Standards for behavior are high, and reliability and trustworthiness are expected. A clear sense of responsibility helps a medical office assistant work through professional challenges, and it supports decision-making that is in the best interest of clients. Practicing first-class medicine requires thoughtful team members who are accountable for their own actions and their consequences.
Skill #6: Confidentiality
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, regulates who can access a patient’s medical record, and it restricts the disclosure of data without informed consent. A large part of a medical office assistant’s job is to safeguard medical records by following security protocols and handling sensitive information with care. Details can’t be shared with colleagues who aren’t involved in the case, and they can’t be discussed with family or friends. HIPAA violations can result in financial penalties for employers and termination for staff.
Skill #7: Attention to Detail
Medical office assistants don’t make life and death clinical decisions, but even minor mistakes in healthcare can have serious effects. A misspelled name, an incorrect date of birth or an outdated insurance number can cause mistaken identity, claims denials and lengthy delays in care. Accuracy and attention to detail prevent problems that slow down everyone’s day. In medicine, they’re indispensable skills.
Skill #8: Problem-Solving
Medical office assistants are problem solvers at heart. They understand there is much at stake in healthcare, so when difficult or unexpected situations occur, they approach them proactively. Problem-solving is a meticulous, multi-step process. A medical office assistant needs a combination of technical expertise and the willingness to research issues and analyze facts to bring solutions to the table. A lot can go wrong in a day, and the ability to solve problems in the front office can keep the whole team’s day on track.
Skill #9: Team Spirit
Providing quality healthcare is always a team effort. In a medical setting, everyone from physicians to the cleaning crew has a meaningful job to do, and results are best when everyone does their part. It can be challenging in an office setting full of different personalities. It sometimes requires setting aside self-interest to develop good interpersonal relationships with both colleagues and patients.
Skill #10: A Commitment to Learning
Medicine is always evolving, and it never sits on its laurels. It continually seeks ways to improve, and it’s expected that everyone involved will do the same. For a medical office assistant, graduating from a vocational school program is just the first step on a lifelong path of learning.
Skill #11: A Positive Attitude
Patients and colleagues appreciate working with team members who are appropriately sober, yet relaxed and fun-loving. A positive attitude helps patients relax, and it reduces workplace stress among colleagues. Providing top-quality care is a serious mission, but sometimes, a smile and a little laughter are the best medicine.
If the list of skills a medical office assistant needs to be successful sounds intimidating, it shouldn’t be. It’s always important for students considering their career options to do some soul-searching and consider which skills and qualities enhance their chance of success on any given path. But while a fortunate few have what it takes right out of the gate to be a medical office assistant, both practical and soft skills can be learned.
Did learning about the important skills for a successful medical office assistant interest you? Want to become a medical office assistant? The Medical Office Assistant Program is designed to prepare graduates to work as an entry-level medical front office assistant, receptionist, insurance biller, insurance collector, appointment scheduler, medical secretary, or medical records clerk in health care centers, clinics, hospitals, ambulatory care centers and medical billing offices. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical office assistant and start a rewarding career today.
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