How to Become a Medical Office Assistant

Medicine is an increasingly dynamic and complex field. In addition to skilled doctors and nurses, health care facilities also need trained support professionals to keep things running smoothly. They need medical office assistants.

What Do Medical Office Assistants Do?

A medical office assistant handles a wide range of clerical and administrative duties in a health care setting like a doctor’s office. Responsibilities may include these duties.

  • Answering the telephone
  • Making appointments
  • Greeting clients
  • Managing the reception area
  • Assisting with billing inquiries
  • Updating and maintaining medical records
  • Filing insurance forms and billing
  • Transcribing a doctor’s notes
  • Assisting with referrals and procedure scheduling
  • Coordinating with providers to answer patients’ questions
  • Ordering medical and office supplies

Where Do Medical Office Assistants Work?

Medical office assistants have the ideal blend of skills to work in physicians’ practices, but their role is expanding to other settings including hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, and anywhere else that medical professionals need quality administrative support.

What Skills Do Medical Office Assistants Need to Be Successful?

A medical office assistant is the flexible administrative specialist who everyone depends on. To succeed as a medical office assistant, having the following skills is a plus.

Communication Skills

Medical office assistants spend most of their day communicating with someone, including patients, doctors, nurses, insurance company representatives, and supply vendors. As the ambassador for the health care team, it’s vital that the medical office assistant be approachable and comfortable conversing with others. The ability to communicate with sensitivity and discretion gives both patients and coworkers a sense of confidence and reduces stress.

Medical office assistants may be responsible for filling out an insurance form or explaining a billing issue to a client. Being able to read instructions and put ideas on paper clearly is an integral part of a medical office assistant’s job.

Basic Computer and Technical Skills

Most medical records are kept in digital form. Today’s medical office assistants can expect to use a computer for most tasks, as well as office equipment like copiers, 10-key calculators, and multi-line phone systems. Basic keyboard skills and comfort around computers are essential, as is the willingness to learn medical practice management software applications.

Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is used extensively in health care settings, and a sound grasp of the basic terms doctors, nurses, and pharmacists use helps medical office assistants better understand both patients’ and colleagues’ needs.

Organizational Skills

Medical office assistants are multitaskers. They’re asked to manage a variety of responsibilities while effectively prioritizing tasks and being able to shift gears at a moment’s notice. In a fast-paced health care setting, busy medical office assistants are expected to remain positive and professional.

Attention to Detail

Errors in health care happen, but because lives are involved, mistakes can be both costly and risky. A medical office assistant should be able to juggle most clerical tasks without losing focus or becoming distracted. Attention to detail in health care is a must.

A Positive Attitude

Both clients and colleagues appreciate a medical office assistant who brings a positive, energetic attitude to the workplace. Employers want staff members who will be friendly and sensitive toward others while doing the best job they can in a busy and sometimes challenging environment. Keeping things upbeat brings a constructive focus to the day.

Reliability

Both patients and colleagues depend on team members who are committed to getting to work on time and remaining focused regardless of what may be happening in their personal lives.

In medicine, most tasks are time sensitive, and when the team is working shorthanded, the workload of each member increases, leading to stress and the potential for errors. As a medical office assistant, reliability is critical for success.

How to Become a Medical Office Assistant

At one time, anyone with a stable work history and clerical training could land a position as a medical office assistant. Today, however, most employers prefer to hire graduates of vocational school training programs because they already have proven and relevant skills.

What do medical office assistant programs teach? It depends in part on the type of program. Schools offer a range of options from certificate programs to diplomas and degrees. Students at every level can expect to learn about these topics.

  • Medical terminology
  • Records and data management
  • Basic accounting procedures
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Practice management software
  • Office administration
  • Health care billing practices
  • Medical coding
  • Supply management
  • Emergency procedures

In addition to classroom time, most programs also offer workplace experiences to enhance learning and allow students to practice their skills while working side-by-side with experienced medical office assistants.

Finding the Right Job

Medical office assistants are in demand, and there are flexible full-time and part-time opportunities that fit most people’s lifestyles. A job in health care is a commitment, so before applying, it’s essential for job seekers to consider which positions are a good fit for their skills and which will help them meet their long-term career goals.

A job in a private physician’s practice will utilize nearly every skill a medical office assistant learns in school. For someone who wants to work with children, a job in a pediatrician’s office will provide that, whereas a position in a geriatric clinic won’t.

It’s also important to ensure that a job offers a good work/life balance. A balanced approach to hours spent at work versus time spent at home and meeting other commitments is becoming increasingly important. This applies both to staff members who need to be relaxed and focused on the job, knowing their personal needs are met, and employers who want a fully staffed team that’s ready to meet their patients’ needs.

Where should medical office assistant students look for job opportunities? Job hunting should start in school.

Employers often post to school job boards knowing that they’re reaching qualified candidates, and the connections students make within the medical community during work experiences are invaluable. Vocational schools are well-known for offering graduates ongoing job placement support, and many have excellent relationships with local doctors and can help graduating students find the right opportunities.

Continuing Education and the Path Forward

Graduating from a medical office assistant program is the first step to a rewarding career in health care, but for those who want to further their education while they work, it can be just the beginning.

Do you have what it takes to become a medical office assistant? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical office field?

The Medical Office Administration program prepares students with the skills and training necessary to provide excellent administrative support while working and playing a key role in running an efficient, productive office in a variety of medical and business environments.

Through a blend of classroom instruction and practical hands-on training, Medical Office Administration program students receive an in-depth education in computer data entry of patient information, patient files, filing systems and records, insurance claim filing, and billing and coding.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a medical office assistant on Long Island.

To access information on our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other consumer data regarding programs leading to gainful employment at Hunter Business School, please visit Consumer Information.