If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant, you may have heard of a closely related job called medical administrative assistant.
The duties of medical administrative assistants revolve around office work, such as scheduling appointments and making phone calls. As a result, they are sometimes also referred to as medical office assistants.
This guide will go over everything you need to know about medical administrative assistants, including what they do, where they work, average salaries, and more.
What is a Medical Administrative Assistant?
A medical administrative assistant performs front-office duties and helps manage the daily workflow in a healthcare facility. Their job description will usually list tasks such as scheduling appointments and keeping patient records up to date.
Consider the last time you visited your primary care provider. The day before, you may have received a call from the office to confirm your appointment. You also probably checked in for your visit at the front desk. After seeing your physician, you may have gone back to the front desk to schedule your next appointment.
These are all examples of tasks that medical administrative assistants can perform. As you can see, they play a major role in keeping the healthcare system running smoothly and effectively.
What Does a Medical Administrative Assistant Do?
During a typical workday, medical administrative assistants are responsible for a variety of tasks. Some of their duties include:
- Scheduling appointments. Administrative medical assistants are responsible for confirming, canceling, and rescheduling appointments.
- Maintaining patient records. It is important to keep medical records up to date so that patients can receive the best care possible.
- Making and answering phone calls. Administrative medical assistants are usually the first people that patients speak to when calling a medical office.
- Directing patients in the waiting room. This helps ensure proper patient flow in the waiting room and throughout the clinic.
- Communicating with patients. Administrative medical assistants are involved in communicating important information to patients such as billing and scheduling.
- Working with billing and insurance. Paying for healthcare is often a complicated and stressful process for patients. Administrative medical assistants can help patients understand what their insurance plans will and will not cover.
- Keeping the office organized and stocked. Not having adequate supplies can be inconvenient and, in some cases, disastrous.
- Helping patients fill out paperwork. Sometimes patients can have trouble filling out all the required paperwork during their visit.
Where Do Medical Administrative Assistants Work?
Because they are an essential part of the healthcare system, medical administrative assistants work in a wide variety of settings. Their versatility allows them to work in places such as hospitals, dental offices, private practices, and outpatient clinics.
Depending on the type of healthcare facility at which they work, medical administrative assistants may have slightly different job responsibilities.
If working in a hospital, their responsibilities may be more defined. For example, they may stick to performing tasks outlined in their job description, such as scheduling appointments or maintaining patient information on the electronic health record.
In contrast, working in a smaller private practice can provide a different working experience, where their responsibilities are more fluid. Because there are fewer staff working in a private practice, a medical administrative assistant may be trained to perform other tasks such as taking patient vitals, for example.
Compared to other healthcare workers, medical administrative assistants are less likely to be on their feet throughout their shift. They will probably spend most of their workday sitting at the front desk. As a result, they will typically interact with patients before and after their visit.
There are also work-from-home medical assistants that handle administrative tasks from the comfort of their own homes.
>> Read More: Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
Skills Required to Be a Medical Administrative Assistant?
Patients rely on their medical administrative assistants to help make getting care as simple and efficient as possible. To be a great medical administrative assistant, you will need to have a variety of hard and soft skills:
Hard skills that medical administrative assistants need include:
- Typing speed. As with any type of administrative work, there will be a lot of typing. Being able to type both quickly and accurately is important for doing your job efficiently. Some employers require that applicants are able to type at a certain rate (typically measured in words per minute).
- Computer software. Because they are used every day in the medical setting, it is crucial to know how to use electronic health record software. In addition, it is also helpful to be familiar with other software, such as spreadsheets and word processors.
- Medical coding. Having a strong grasp of medical coding is important for billing and keeping accurate patient records.
Soft skills that medical administrative assistants need include:
- Organization. Working in a busy medical office can be hectic, with many things going on at the same time. Being able to stay organized and focused is essential, especially in situations where you are asked to multitask.
- Communication. You will need to be able to discuss instructions and policies with patients. Good communication is key to helping patients know what things they need to do when getting care.
- Customer service. Dealing with patient questions, concerns, and complaints is a major part of the job. You will need to be patient and empathetic when helping resolve any issues that occur.
- Attention to detail. As a medical administrative assistant, you will be responsible for entering and maintaining a large amount of data, such as patient records and appointment scheduling. It is important to be able to identify any errors or inconsistencies.
Medical Administrative Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for “medical secretaries and administrative assistants” in 2021 was $37,450, which comes out to around $18 per hour.
Based on job listings on websites like Indeed, you can expect medical administrative assistant positions to typically pay around $18 an hour. However, this will depend on the location, employer, and the employee’s level of experience.
The average annual medical assistant salary, including all types, is $37,190, which is also about $18 per hour.
Over the next decade, medical assistant jobs are expected to grow by 16%, which is a faster than the average outlook. This means that there should be plenty of medical assistant job openings for the foreseeable, as the demand for healthcare services increases.
A Day in the Life of a Medical Administrative Assistant
When deciding whether you want to pursue a career, it can be helpful to imagine what a “day in the life” would look like for someone with that job.
On a typical workday, a medical administrative assistant may arrive at the medical office an hour before patients start coming. They will review the day’s agenda and see if any changes have occurred since the last time they checked the schedule. They will also check the answering machine to see if there are any messages that were left overnight.
Once patients start arriving, they greet them and help them check in. They may help patients fill out paperwork. Once the patients are finished with their visit, the medical administrative assistant can help them understand their billing situation and schedule their next appointment.
Once the workday is over, they may check in with their supervisors and coworkers. Before going home, they may also organize the front desk and double check to see if all the necessary supplies are stocked and ready for the next day.
Administrative medical assistants usually work full-time schedules of around 40 hours per week. Their schedules may vary depending on where they work. For example, they may be asked to work on weekends, holidays, or during night shifts. In addition, they may work 8 or 12-hour shifts.
Work schedules at a hospital setting are more likely to include weekends, holidays, or overnight shifts. In contrast, work schedules at a private practice or clinic will usually follow a more traditional 9 am to 5 pm work week.
How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant
Compared to other healthcare careers, the path to becoming a medical administrative assistant is much shorter. Although there are other ways of becoming a medical administrative assistant, here is the typical path to becoming one:
1) Obtain your high school diploma or GED
This is considered the minimum requirement for becoming a medical administrative assistant. Additional education and experience are not formally required but will help immensely in landing a job. With that being said, there are many medical assistant jobs with on-the-job training.
2) Get the necessary training & education
It can be helpful to take courses in subjects such as medical terminology and medical billing. Having experience with these topics can help increase your chances of finding a job, especially if you choose not to take a medical assistant training program.
In addition, there are also medical administrative assistant certificate programs offered through postsecondary institutions.
3) Complete a medical assistant training program
These programs are offered online and through postsecondary institutions such as community colleges or trade schools. The length of the program will vary, but they will usually take anywhere from 4 months to 2 years to complete.
The benefit to these programs is that they provide you with a comprehensive education that will prepare you to perform tasks (both administrative and clinical) within the medical assistant scope of practice. In addition, they will prepare you to take a medical assistant certification exam.
Medical Administrative Assistants vs. Clinical Medical Assistants
Medical assistants, in general, are able to perform duties that fall into two categories: clinical and administrative. Although both types of tasks are within the scope of practice for medical assistants, some jobs may focus on one type of task over the other.
In these cases, the job may be designated as” medical administrative assistant” or “clinical medical assistant”/”certified clinical medical assistant”. The daily tasks that the medical assistant will be responsible for will be different depending on the particular job.
The biggest difference between the two is that clinical medical assistants work closely with other healthcare staff to provide patient care. They can perform tasks such as taking patient vitals, reviewing patient case histories, giving injections, and preparing samples for laboratory analysis.
In contrast, medical administrative assistants mainly perform front-office duties. However, depending on the job description, workplace, and medical assistant’s level of training, they can be asked to perform other non-administrative tasks as well.
>> Read More: Medical Assistant vs. Medical Administrative Assistant