How to Become a Medical Office Assistant

The medical office assistant has a different focus than that of a clinical medical assistant. Each state determines the actual scope of practice for medical assistants, but in all states, they must work under the supervision of a doctor or licensed nurse such as an RN or LPN. A medical office assistant performs clerical duties and billing rather than clinical tasks. Here’s how to become a medical office assistant.

Medical Office Assistant Training

While medical office assistants can be trained on the job, there may be limitations in such training. Many employers prefer or require that their medical office assistants graduate from an accredited program. Medical office assistant training programs can be found in vocational schools. While the programs may vary slightly in length and curriculum, a typical diploma program lasts about six months. A typical curriculum for a medical office assistant will include medical terminology, the use of office equipment, billing and coding, legal and medical ethics, communication skills and scheduling.

Skills for Becoming a Medical Office Assistant

As with any occupation, that of a medical office assistant requires certain skills and personal characteristics for success. First, you should genuinely like and want to help people. A warm, empathetic manner helps build rapport, relieve patient and family anxiety, and promote better communication. Your communication skills should be excellent, both written and verbal, as much of your work will revolve around transmitting information. Attention to detail is another critical characteristic needed in tasks such as billing, coding or scheduling. Flexibility is important, as health care changes happen on a regular basis. In addition, in a small office you may need to perform multiple tasks in the same day. Knowledge of medical terminology, billing rules, regulations, medical coding, and the ability to decipher complex material will help ensure your work is accurate.

Duties of a Medical Office Assistant

The medical office assistant performs clerical and administrative duties. These may vary according to the size of the office in which they work, but typically include such tasks as:

  • Processing insurance claims
  • Medical coding & billing
  • Maintaining medical or financial records
  • Front office management procedures
  • Collection procedures
  • Scheduling patients for appointments, medical procedures or surgery

In larger offices, these duties are often divided, so that one person acts as a receptionist, another handles billing and collections and a third manages specialty referrals. Some offices have an insurance expert, someone who helps patients complete forms, interacts with the insurance companies and works on payment denials. A medical office assistant may also act as the physician’s secretary and be responsible for writing letters, managing the physician’s schedule or similar administrative tasks.

Medical Office Assistant’s Work Settings

The medical office assistant who is trained in administrative tasks is most likely to work in an area such as medical records. Many hospitals also offer job options as clinic secretaries or administrative assistants in the various areas where patients receive care. A clinical secretary frees up licensed nurses to perform clinical tasks and can help ensure the unit runs efficiently by transcribing doctor’s orders, answering the telephone and ordering supplies.

Although many organizations use electronic medical records, there is still a need for document scanning of outside records or records that are not in electronic format. These must be properly identified and indexed within the patient chart. Hospital billing is complex and attention to detail is important in this kind of work. Hospitals have coding needs more complex than those of an office, especially if the hospital has a tumor registry or if clinical research is conducted on the premises.

Advancing Your Career as a Medical Office Assistant

There are plenty of opportunities for advancement. Certifications may also improve your chances of promotion. Look for recognized 3rd party testing organizations such as The National Center for Competency Testing or NCCT. Additional education in management and leadership may open the door to a supervisory position. You might also choose to work in a specialty office rather than in general practice.

With a relatively short educational period and high demand, becoming a medical office assistant offers you many potential benefits. Begin with a good education and take opportunities for additional training or experience. You can have a long and satisfying career as a medical office assistant and you will be helping others to improve their health.

Enjoy managing the front office of a medical facility or doctor’s office? 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 billing, 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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