A healthcare career doesn’t always involve providing patients with hands-on care. In fact, administrative medical assistants do much of their work at a desk rather than in an examination room or hospital ward. When you’re looking for a career in healthcare that allows you to put your clerical skills to use, becoming an administrative medical assistant could be a good choice for you. Understanding what these assistants are and what kinds of duties they perform on a regular basis can help you decide if you want to pursue this career. Consider the following as you explore career paths in the healthcare field.
What Is a Medical Administrative Assistant?
Medical administrative assistants are healthcare workers who perform clerical or office tasks in medical facilities, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices. These assistants are usually not directly involved with patient care like clinical medical assistants are. Instead, they mainly work in a medical office handling administrative tasks and duties, which can vary widely.
Administrative medical assistants have a valuable role to play in medical settings. While clinical medical assistants and other medical staff provide hands-on care to patients, administrative medical assistants handle tasks that keep things running smoothly behind the scenes, such as scheduling appointments for patients or filling out insurance forms.
What Does an Administrative Medical Assistant Do?
Administrative medical assistants are mainly responsible for handling office or administrative tasks, from answering phones to making sure lab results reach the right doctor. Learning more about their daily responsibilities, as well as the skills they’re expected to have, can give you a better idea of what this type of job is like.
Administrative medical assistants have multiple duties and tasks to handle on the job. Being able to expertly switch from one task to another or take on additional tasks as needed, such as on busy days, should also be expected. What kinds of tasks do administrative medical assistants usually handle? This might vary, depending on the kind of medical facility these assistants work in. For example, some might be expected to take on a wider range of tasks in a medical facility with fewer employees, such as a doctor’s office or small clinic. Others might have a narrower set of tasks to do, such as those who work in a hospital department. Some of the daily responsibilities that administrative medical assistants might handle include:
Updating medical records and charts
Filling out insurance forms and other kinds of paperwork
Processing medical insurance payments
Sending lab results to doctors or other clinicians
Ordering office supplies
Checking in patients before appointments and gathering patient information as needed
Hard skills refer to more technical or specialized skills that medical assistants need to learn. Since some of the tasks administrative medical assistants handle involve using software programs, developing technical skills is important. These assistants need technical skills to comfortably use different programs for updating patient medical records, doing medical billing and coding, and performing other data entry tasks in the office on a day-to-day basis.
Administrative medical assistants also need to learn other hard skills for this kind of work, such as:
Understanding medical terminology
Setting up appointments for patients
Using office phone systems, such as handling multiple calls or transferring calls to different departments
Handling some clinical tasks, if needed, especially for those who work in smaller medical practices or doctor’s offices
Soft skills refer to skills that can be used in a wide range of settings, such as when administrative medical assistants use communication skills while interacting with patients, fellow assistants, doctors, nurses, or insurance companies. These kinds of skills are considered transferable since they’re useful to have in many types of careers.
Administrative medical assistants can expect to have opportunities to develop these skills during training programs. Some of the soft skills that these assistants will need to learn include:
Communication or interpersonal skills
Attention to detail
Ability to multitask, especially in busy office settings or medical facilities
What kind of places do medical administrative assistants work in? With this type of career, you can work in a variety of medical facilities. Some medical assistants work in doctor’s offices or private medical practices, while others work for insurance companies or in hospitals. Other kinds of work environments for administrative medical assistants include urgent care facilities, medical billing companies, and medical research labs. Whether you prefer to work in a smaller medical setting or a large hospital system, keep in mind that almost all medical facilities need administrative staff.
Keep in mind that some facilities might train the administrative medical assistants to perform back-office tasks to help in times of high patient volume or during short-staffing periods. Those additional skills are up to the facility and state regulations. Generally, they may include triage, vital signs, injections, phlebotomy and rapid lab testing.
How Much Does a Medical Administrative Assistant Make?
The salary for administrative medical assistants can vary considerably when you factor in things like location and experience level. Keep this in mind when learning about medical assistant pay. For a general idea of administrative medical assistant salaries visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Benefits of Working as an Administrative Medical Assistant
When you work as an administrative medical assistant (MA), you’ll get to enjoy certain benefits. This type of MA career allows you to have a healthcare job that doesn’t directly involve patient care, such as administering medications or assisting with medical procedures. Instead, you can put your skills to use behind a desk in a doctor’s office, hospital, outpatient clinic, or other healthcare facility. If you have an interest in a certain area of medical assisting, such as oncology, you can pursue that as a career advancement. With an educational background in administrative medical assisting, you can also pursue a career advancement to become a health and medical services manager or work as a medical and clinical laboratory technologist with additional training.
Education Necessary to Become an MA
What kind of education do you need to become an MA? In most states, you don’t have to complete any formal education for this career. However, healthcare employers often prefer hiring medical assistants who have completed a training program at a college or other higher learning institution. Going through this kind of training helps these assistants develop the right skills and learn about office procedures, medical billing, and other important aspects of the job.
While it’s possible to learn the skills you’ll need on the job right after high school, taking the time to go through a medical assistant program can be highly beneficial. In addition to standing out from the competition on job applications, you’ll receive more in-depth knowledge and a chance to develop and improve important skills that administrative medical assistants need. When you complete a medical assistant program, you’ll also be in a better position to advance your career, which might involve going on to earn a higher degree.
If you’re thinking of becoming an administrative medical assistant, please contact the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP). CHCP offers a blended and online medical assistant program that teaches you the skills you’ll be using as an administrative medical assistant. Our program, which can be completed in as little as 36 weeks, includes training in insurance, billing, and other clerical tasks, as well as office procedures and management. The blended program includes both in-person and online coursework and is available in several locations, including Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. The online program offers added flexibility with online instruction that includes face-to-face access to faculty and personalized student support to prepare you for success.