When most people go to the doctor’s office, they usually don’t think much about what goes on behind the scenes. What goes behind the scenes, however, is pretty important. Medical records must be properly archived, prescriptions must be sent to pharmacies, insurance forms must be completed, appointments must be scheduled and more.
The person who keeps the patients healthy is the doctor. But the person who keeps the entire office healthy? That’s the administrative medical assistant.
An administrative medical assistant isn’t just an exciting career, it’s also a career with plenty of forecasted growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of medical assistant positions could rise by 29 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Those considering a career in this field need to know what will be expected of them.
What Does an Administrative Medical Assistant do?
An administrative medical assistant is the “face” of the entire practice. They’re often the person at the front desk who interacts with patients both in person and by phone. A friendly, professional assistant sets a great tone for the entire office visit, and even the entire relationship between doctor and patient for years to come.
Administrative medical assistants often handle all of the office paperwork, too. They file medical records and handle insurance forms. They call other offices and medical facilities for information. They ensure that the information related to a patient’s medical care flows smoothly and is done correctly.
The skills and knowledge they acquire can lead to more specialized posts, such as office specialist or patient coordinator. Some medical assistants specialize in a particular medical field, such as pediatrics, podiatry, optometry and more. When an assistant specializes, they can find themselves in high demand within that field.
Not all assistants work in private practices, however. Many find great success within large health care organizations such as hospitals and insurance companies. The skills one learns in order to become an administrative medical assistant have a wide variety of applications throughout the health care field.
Along those same lines, a certified medical assistant is in a great position should they wish to transfer to another career within the medical field. Many education programs, such as nursing programs, are able to turn real-world experience into credit. Earning certification as an administrative medical assistant is one of the quickest ways to enter the field of health care.
Plus, the pay is pretty high. The median annual wage was $29,370 in May 2012, which is the most recent year statistics are available. With demand for health care expected to continue to be on the rise, however, this wage is likely to grow appropriate with inflation.
What They Need to Know
In the business world, administrative assistants often don’t need much education and training beyond a high school diploma and on-the-job experience. While there are no formal educational requirements for administrative medical assistants, most doctors’ offices, clinics, and other facilities prefer a candidate who is certified and educated in the field.
Administrative medical assistant must have specialized skills in order to succeed in the field. They must know medical terminology. They must know how to use the ever-changing industry-specific technology that is used.
In order to gain this knowledge and skill set, these candidates take part in a program at a vocational school or community college. A medical assistant program can last anywhere between one and two years. During the program, subjects taught include how to use both terminology and technology correctly. Additionally, students will learn how to work with records and medical-related computer programs.
Not all instruction is based on practical application. In order to be successful, medical assistants must have a proper understanding of many concepts include medical law, ethics and patient relations.
It’s key for those interested in becoming an administrative medical assistant to take part in an accredited program. The two accreditation bodies recognized in the field are the Accreditation Bureau of Health Education School (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Schools (CAAHEP).
Achieving certification shows those in the health care field that the person is qualified for the position and has the expertise needed for success. Certification isn’t a one-time deal. Medical assistants with who achieve the CMA designation must be re-certified every 60 months.
Who They Need to Be
Medical assistants work with in-office staff and the patients. Because of this, they need to have very specific personal qualities in order to succeed for their office and for the patients. Medical assistants need excellent skills in communication, organization and flexibility.
First and foremost, they need to be quite social people who enjoy spending time with others. That includes being friendly, of course. Because the assistant works directly with the public, dealing with important medical forms and details, medical assistants also need to be reliable. If they aren’t consistent and hard working, the patient will likely seek out a new doctor.
Administrative medial assistants also need to be detail-oriented. Since they often deal with records and forms, these assistants have to pay close attention to everything going on around them and double-check their work. Another necessary quality for administrative medical assistants is organizational skills and the ability to work independently. Doctors offices and other healthcare facilities are often quite busy, so it’s important to stay on top of paperwork, phone calls, faxes, and so on.
Communication is the final key to being a successful medical assistant. They speak to patients all day long, either in person or on the phone, and they have to communicate important instruction in writing. There are many forms and records to fill out, so medical assistants must have good spelling and grammar.
An administrative medical assistant is the key to smooth operations within a medical office. But there’s more to the job than just administrative work. There’s also the medical component, which most assistants find fascinating and fun.
Beyond even the medical aspect, however, the ultimate job of an administrative assistant is to help people. When a person needs a doctor, they don’t want to deal with scheduling, insurance information or any other bureaucracy. They want a trusted professional to help them – and that professional is often an administrative medical assistant.