Medical office assistants are the glue that holds healthcare together. It’s a critical role as they manage the paperwork so that doctors and nurses have more time to treat patients. Information is everything in medicine, so if you’re people-oriented and have an aptitude for data, organization, and administration, becoming a medical office assistant may be just what the doctor ordered.
Do I Need a Diploma to Get a Medical Office Assistant Job?
Many offices may not have official training requirements to work as a medical office assistant, but practically speaking, a diploma is recommended. Healthcare is a complex, highly regulated field with serious responsibilities that require more knowledge than a high school education can provide.
On-the-job training is expensive for employers, and there’s no guarantee that a new hire will be proficient in their role. A more cost-effective alternative is to hire applicants with proven skills. Candidates without a diploma have a hard time finding a job because they’re competing with experienced, educated job seekers.
You’ll have all the skills you need plus the confidence necessary to feel comfortable in a new job. A diploma opens the door to greater opportunity both today and in the future.
How Long Is a Medical Office Assistant Diploma Program?
Most jobs in healthcare require years in college, but full-time students can graduate from a vocational school medical office assistant program in as little as five months. Or if you need to earn while you learn, you can attend part-time in the evenings and complete your training in ten months. Few roles in medicine are as meaningful and rewarding with less than a year of education. It’s the fast track to an exciting new career.
What Do I Learn During a Medical Office Assistant Diploma Program?
Created for the beginner, medical office assistant programs prepare graduates to hit the ground running in an entry-level role. Through a combination of classroom and hands-on training, students learn the skills necessary to provide top-notch administrative support in modern healthcare settings from private practices to hospitals. Programs cover:
Anatomy and Physiology
To function effectively in a healthcare office, you need to understand how the body works. Topics include body systems, common disorders and diagnoses, and treatments.
Medical-speak is a language of its own, but the meaning of words is easy to decipher once you understand their parts. Medical terminology classes show you how to determine what they mean by breaking them down into their parts. You’ll learn about prefixes, suffixes, and root words and how they’re combined to create terms.
For example, the prefix “hyper” means too much. The root word “cholesterol” refers to a fat our bodies produce to build cell walls, and the suffix “emia” indicates a substance in the blood. The term hypercholesterolemia, therefore, means too much cholesterol in the bloodstream. Combined with the knowledge gained in the anatomy and physiology course, you’ll get a better idea of what the documents in medical offices pertain to.
Medical offices use computers for everything from scheduling to billing. Some use practice management software that integrates most functions, others use a range of programs to meet different needs. This course offers an overview of computer applications in medicine and how they fit into a medical office assistant’s role.
Medical office assistants enter data at every patient visit. You’ll learn keyboarding basics and how to add, update and retrieve information from a computer system, including an overview of electronic communication. Accuracy and efficiency are emphasized.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
Data is the backbone of healthcare. Today, most medical records are digital. Using the same equipment and software you’ll use on the job, you’ll learn how health records are structured, maintained and secured.
Gone are the days when medical files are kept in metal cabinets. Today’s filing systems are multi-tiered organizational schemes that help make electronic data more accessible. When filed correctly, doctors can share information with a few clicks and without being in the same office. Billing specialists can find data quickly for a quick turnaround on claims.
Also covered is how to handle paper documentation, including the scanning technology used to digitize it. You’ll practice retrieving files for referrals and archiving.
Most medical bills in the United States are paid for by insurers. But the system is complicated, including both private insurance companies and government programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Worker’s Compensation. Each has different documentation requirements for claims.
Medical office assistants play a role in the billing process, so it’s critical to know how insurance claims works. This course explores insurance theory and the inner workings of different policies and programs. When patients call, you’ll feel at ease asking and answering basic questions about insurance coverage.
Billing and Coding
Medical coding is an integral part of the billing process. A type of alphanumeric shorthand that’s used to describe symptoms, conditions, and health services, it cuts down on the enormous volume of information that changes hands between doctors and insurers.
When patients are checked in, medical office assistants create the documentation that will ultimately be used for billing. They’re also responsible for filing and assisting with claims, both of which depend on accurate coding.
Medical Law and Ethics
Healthcare is regulated for the public’s safety. Office staff in a medical office must be familiar with the laws that govern their jobs. HIPAA, for example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, revamped data sharing and the handling of medical records. Violations can result in financial penalties for doctors and termination for employees.
OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, has strict rules for private practices to protect workers. Offices that take x-rays, for example, are subject to the same safety rules as hospitals. Medical law and ethics courses cover the basics of health law, ethical dilemmas and how to handle medical emergencies.
Medical office assistants are in demand. Hard work and the right vocational school program will prepare you for your future.
Are you ready to get your diploma and become a medical office assistant? 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, billing and coding.