Are Medical Office Assistants Frontline Healthcare Workers?

Medical Assistants

The pandemic is taking a toll on communities. People depend on frontline healthcare workers to help them stay well and healthy. However, as the need for medical services rises, will there be enough support specialists like medical office assistants to meet demand? If you’re ready to be a frontline hero, now’s the time to consider medical office assistant training.

What is a Frontline Healthcare Worker?

Frontline healthcare workers are direct care professionals and the team members that support them. They include:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Nursing assistants
  • Physical therapists
  • Paramedics

Plus, the many people who make it possible for them to do their jobs, such as:

  • Emergency dispatchers
  • X-ray technicians
  • Lab workers
  • Billing specialists
  • Medical office assistants

Is a Medical Office Assistant a Frontline Essential Worker?

Medical office assistants are essential frontline workers. Healthcare is complicated, especially during a pandemic. To slow the spread of infection, the usual protocols for seeing a doctor have changed. Patients are being asked not to go to the emergency room for respiratory symptoms, but instead call their primary care physician. When they do, they need a friendly, knowledgeable staff member to guide them, so they get the prompt care they deserve.

How Does a Medical Office Assistant Support Physician’s Offices, Clinics and Hospitals?

A medical office assistant is a logistics specialist. It’s their job to coordinate with patients, prepare patients for a visit with their provider and follow up after for billing and questions. It’s a critical role. Without medical office assistants, doctors and nurses would spend the day answering the telephone and filling out paperwork instead of seeing patients. Medical office assistants keep the office running smoothly so the clinical staff can do their jobs. A medical office assistant’s many responsibilities include:

Triaging Phone Calls

A medical office assistant is an ambassador of first impressions. They answer general questions about the practice like office hours, available services, and billing. The goal is to keep patients informed and help them with their needs.

As a medical office assistant, you won’t troubleshoot symptoms or answer clinical questions, but the training you receive as part of a vocational school diploma program will help you direct inquiries to the most appropriate team member. You will help patients get a quick response to their concerns.

Scheduling Appointments

Patients and providers are both busy, so finding appointment times when both are available is challenging. Your job as a medical office assistant is to maintain a tight schedule that meets patients’ needs and makes the most of clinicians’ time while being prepared for the inevitable emergency call.

The pandemic further underscores the need for careful scheduling to avoid having healthy people in the same reception area as patients with symptoms of contagious illness. It takes careful prescreening.

Managing Patient Flow

It’s a medical office assistant’s responsibility to manage the patient flow from check-in to check-out. As the first person to see patients, one of your most important responsibilities is to make patients feel welcomed and guide them through the pre-visit process.

First, you will discreetly verify the patient’s personal data and the purpose of the visit. You will take a copy of the patient’s insurance card for reference, review and obtain signatures on consent-to-treat forms, and in some offices, collect the insurance co-payment. While the patient waits, you will keep an eye on the schedule and keep the patient informed if the doctor is running late. By the time the provider is ready, you will have updated the patient’s medical record, so the information the doctor sees is the most current.

After the visit, you will schedule a follow-up as ordered and resolve any remaining billing. As the last person to the see the patient before they leave, it’s up to you to ensure the patient was satisfied with the visit and are leaving with no further questions.

Medical Records Management

Patient care is documented for continuity. Managing a patient’s health is as much about monitoring trends over time as it is about assessing their condition on any given day. By keeping a running record, the patient, doctor, and consulting physicians stay on the same page, and they can track changes in condition without key details being lost.

Medical office assistants manage computerized and paper health records, so they’re organized and accessible when needed. Students learn everything they need to know in school about electronic data management systems and how to update, store, and share health information.

Billing and Coding

A majority of medical bills are paid for by insurance companies. Part of a medical office assistant’s job is to code claims using alphanumeric system to streamline the process. Insurers use this information to make coverage decisions, so accuracy is essential to avoid denied claims.

Public health officials depend on coded data to monitor disease trends, so they know how to allocate resources. During the pandemic, this is how they know how many people in a given community are seeing their doctor for respiratory symptoms.

Medical office assistants start the coding process at check-in and make adjustments after the exam to ensure appropriate billing for services and supplies.

Filing Insurance Claims

Insurance claims are submitted electronically, but each company has unique requirements for filing. You are responsible for entering data on forms for dozens of different insurers. It’s challenging, but practice management software helps keep claims on track.

In a one-physician office, you may be responsible for much of the billing process. But multi-physician practices typically have dedicated staff for billing, so your work may be limited to coding forms at check-in.

Final Thoughts

Frontline healthcare workers are in the news because of the pandemic, but they were heroes before it started and will continue to be long after things return to normal. Doctors, nurses, and the support specialists that empower their work are the keys to keeping communities healthy, and their contributions don’t go unnoticed. If you’re ready to join the frontlines, talk to a vocational school counselor about how to get started. A rewarding career is just a few months away.

Are you ready to join the frontlines of healthcare? 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.

**PCI firmly upholds its policy of nondiscrimination. Inquiries regarding policy may be directed to TitleIXCoordinator@pcihealth.com.

For more information about our graduation rates and other important information, please visit our website at www.pcihealth.edu/consumer-information