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Expanding Role of Medical Assistants in Patient Care

Medical assistants are invaluable workers in health care. In the coming decade, the job outlook points upward, with the number of medical assistants in the United States projected to grow by 29 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As health care evolves into a more patient-centered model, many experienced medical assistants are being given a greater role on the care team. Learn ways some medical practices are working with experienced medical assistants and training them to contribute in additional roles in value-based care.

What Is a Patient-Centered Care Team?

The most effective way to maximize the skill sets of all health care professionals is to work as a team offering patient-centered care. Health care in the United States is undergoing a transformation, as attempts at payment reform and a move toward value-based reimbursement create opportunities for added services that help in preventing and managing chronic diseases. Clinics and hospitals are under pressure to more effectively deliver these additional services to more medical patients. In response, many medical facilities are restructuring their staffs into care teams and redefining the roles of medical assistants.

A patient-centered care team is a group of personnel who work together as a team to provide care for their assigned patients and to address patients’ overall health. Provider care teams typically include a range of clinical personnel, such as physicians, nurses, panel managers, nutritionists, pharmacists, medical assistants, and social workers. These also include nonclinical staff members, such as peer counselors and registration staff.

The medical patient and caregivers are also essential members of the care team. Tasks that traditionally are performed by the physician or nurse are delegated to other staff members. Focus is placed on the patients’ well-being and health beyond just treating them for the episode of care that brought them in for a visit.

Patient-centered care teams commonly collaborate with each other, the patient, and the patient’s family. The care team shares goals and coordinates high-quality care to medical patients. Team members should have the same mission, vision, and values set forth by the leader or physician of the team. Everyone on the care team should promote collaboration, coordination, and communication. They should also share professional insights, information, and resources for better patient-centered care.

Additional Responsibilities for Experienced Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are essential staff members at all primary care practices. Typically, entry-level medical assistants are tasked with supportive activities like rooming medical patients, taking vital signs, preparing equipment, and assisting with paperwork. They keep patients moving through the clinic and ensure that providers have information about the patients and the medical equipment that they need for the visit.

But many medical assistants, after gaining experience and with professional development, are capable of doing much more. The experienced medical assistant often has greater knowledge of patients’ personal and medical histories, and most are more skilled at using electronic health records than providers are. With experience and on-the-job training, medical assistants can play major roles in preventive care.

Panel Management

In panel management, medical assistants identify care gaps and proactively provide care per standing orders. The medical assistant in the panel manager role might identify when diabetic patients are due for glucose screening or schedule lab work with doctors’ orders.

Health Coaching

Health coaching provides self-management support to patients with chronic conditions. Medical assistants can be educated about certain chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, so they can educate patients about how to better care for themselves and control the condition. This can be through diet, monitoring, exercise, and other important activities that promote good health from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association (AMA), or American Diabetes Association.

Medical Patient Outreach

Medical assistants can reach out to patients about missed appointments and inquire about hospitalizations. They follow higher-risk patients and track referrals to specialists. They follow up with patients after their visits.

Reconciliation of Medications

The medical assistant can help physicians and nurses by creating a list of all medications a patient is taking and compare them with previous orders made during admission, transfer, or discharge.

Interested in becoming a member of a medical care team? The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.

Medical Assistant students learn to perform venipuncture (drawing blood), prepare patients for examinations, assist with exams and special procedures, perform electrocardiography (EKGs), and carry out various laboratory tests.

Contact us today to find out more on how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.