The practice of medicine relies heavily on records. Physicians need them to know how to diagnose and treat patients. The information that lies within intake forms, examination and treatment records, and charts also influences how medical practices seek reimbursement from insurers and the terms on which insurance claims are handled. The medical support assistant job description includes the ways these workers promote the efficient running of a medical practice and the adequacy of its records. Becoming an assistant in a medical setting involves some elementary familiarity with medical terms, medical facility procedures and health insurance.
What Does a Medical Support Assistant Do?
As the name suggests, medical support assistants help the physicians, nurses and physician assistants deliver healthcare to patients. In particular, the clerical and administrative functions of assistants free the practitioners to devote their concentration and time to examination, treatment and diagnoses. For some assistants, the needs of the hospital, clinic or office dictate participating in portions of the evaluation and treatment of the patients.
Medical Support Assistant Job Responsibilities – Resume
- Collect and document weight, height, pulse, temperature, current medications and patient complaints
- Enter examination, diagnosis, treatment and discharge information for patients
- Assist in examinations of patients by physicians, physician assistants and nurses as directed or necessary
- Advise doctors, nurses or physicians’ assistants of walk-ins and those with scheduled appointments waiting to be seen
- Receive insurance information, co-pays or other payments prior to or after visit
- Process patient moves between departments, such as emergency rooms, or other hospitals
- Schedule patient appointments, examination and other procedures
- Submit claims and requests for reimbursement to insurers
- Answer phone calls from insurers, other providers and family members of patients, consistent with privacy laws
- Ensure adequate level of medical supplies and equipment
- Remove or advise physicians of outdated materials and equipment
Where support personnel help in treating or examining patients, the type of medical practice shapes some of the specific tasks. For example, support assistants in eye doctors’ offices may perform initial sight or eye tests and educate patients in the wearing and handling of contact lenses or glasses. In foot doctor practices, the job description may include x-rays and fitting patients for casts.
Medical Support Assistant Essential Skills
Analytical. To properly code medical procedures and services, medical support assistants must have skills in the interpretation of medical charts and records.
Detail-Oriented. Accuracy in records promotes the likely coding of services. Physicians need correct vital signs to properly diagnose and recommend treatments for diseases and other conditions. Medical support assistants need to be sensitive to the details of patient complaints and educating patients on recovery and prevention of disease.
Interpersonal. The medical support assistant job description includes interacting with patients experiencing pain and fear over diagnoses and the prognoses for recovery. Assistants need skills in resolving disputes over insurance coverage of services and bills.
Multi-tasking. In some medical facilities, support assistants need the ability to perform multiple tasks at a particular time. These may include answering phones while trying to enter medical information or submitting codes to insurance companies.
Technical. Medical support assistants should have skills in using and reading medical instruments, such as thermometers, blood pressure monitors and weight scales.
Typing. Keyboarding skills help medical support assistants accurately and promptly enter medical data, codes and appointment schedules.
Becoming a Medical Support Assistant
Typically, medical support assistants do not need formal degrees as a prerequisite to employment. To enhance prospects, many acquire at least a basic medical background through post-secondary classes, training and employment. Various organizations, under the umbrella of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, credential medical assistants and medical administrative assistants.
Education and Training
Medical support assistants should have at least a high school education. Helpful courses in high school may include chemistry and biology, especially for support assistants who may take vital signs and handle medical records.
According to O*NET, nearly 65 percent of medical assistants earn post-secondary certificates, with another 18 percent holding associate’s degrees. Community colleges and hospital certificate programs train and educate assistants in medical vocabulary, patient registration, medical receptionist skills, medical office finance and laboratory procedures, among other subjects.
Experience for prospective medical support assistants comes mainly through training in community colleges, hospitals and other medical settings. Some entry-level support assistants are trained on the job by more experienced personnel.
Prior work as an office receptionist, data entry worker, or in an insurance office can afford applicants helpful experience in the skills of medical support assistants. Hospitals and medical clinics serving low-income patients may use volunteers, who can build exposure to a healthcare setting.
When medical support assistants work is a function of the particular medical facility that employs them. Roughly six out of ten occupied positions in physicians’ offices in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In these settings, shifts typically run on weekdays and during normal business hours. Some offices serve patients on evenings and weekends, so some irregular schedules for medical support assistants are possible.
Hospitals employed approximately 15 percent of medical assistants in 2014. In these establishments, medical support assistants can expect the potential and likelihood of nights, weekends, early mornings and holidays. Support personnel may staff operating rooms that begin receiving patients in dawn or predawn hours, as well as other hours of the day.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 591,300 medical assistants as of 2014. By 2024, employment of medical assistants should climb by 23 percent. Among “Other healthcare support occupations,” job growth should register at 19 percent by 2024.
Medical practices rely significantly on support personnel to accomplish administrative and clerical tasks. The prevalence of insurance as a payer of medical bills necessitates medical support assistants to process claims and ensure the correct entry of medical information. With technology and regulations comes the need for hospitals, physicians’ offices and clinics to electronically store and preserve medical records.
An increasingly aging population and more patients with health insurance will sustain the demand for medical services and, as a result, medical support personnel.
Healthcare remains a constant need and demand for the population in general. Insurance and digital technology have increased the responsibilities of hospitals and medical practices. Qualified medical support assistants will see numerous opportunities to fill positions that ease the administrative burdens of physicians and medical centers.