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Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant

Interested in becoming a medical assistant and not sure if you are ready for the clinical side of the job? Maybe becoming a medical office assistant is a better option for you.

Although many medical assistants help with clerical tasks, most medical office assistants leave the patients to the medical assistants. The medical office assistant focuses on the clerical tasks instead of the clinical tasks in a medical facility.

The following will help define the similarities and differences between medical assistants vs medical office assistants. Regardless of which you choose, you will work with colleagues who want to help patients stay healthy and happy.

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants deal directly with other health care professionals in treating injuries and diseases. If you have a desire to work in the health care field, this is an excellent place to begin. Your career as a medical assistant will have a purpose and be beneficial to everyone you meet, whether it’s a doctor or patient. What kinds of skills are needed to become a medical assistant?

Medical Assistant Skills

Some of the most sought-after skills someone in the medical assistant profession needs include patient care, preparing injections, CPR, measuring vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, and breathing rate), patient preparation, and EKG. You will find medical assistants in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, labs, and urgent care facilities.

Working in Doctors’ Offices, Clinics, and Urgent Care Facilities

Medical assistants fill vital rolls in many doctors’ facilities. They escort patients into the exam rooms and take their height and weight. The medical assistant also takes patients’ vital signs and prepares them for the actual visit from the doctor.

Medical assistants are the ones writing important notes and information on the patient’s chart by finding out if the patient suffers from an allergy or other condition, noting symptoms and medications.

It’s the medical assistant who takes a patient’s blood and changes the dressings on cuts or burns. Doctors may ask a medical assistant to perform a certain test, and then in turn explain it to the patient.

It’s usually the responsibility of the medical assistant to provide patients with instructions for routine care, such as medication needs or special dietary requirements. Medical assistants aid patients as they teach them how to use a wheelchair, crutches, or a walker.

Other Possible Duties

Regardless of whether a medical assistant works in a hospital, clinic, or private doctor’s facility, some of the duties may also include filing paperwork, verifying insurance, patient scheduling, and communicating between the doctor and patient.

It’s the medical assistant who prepares the examination rooms and makes sure everything the doctor may need is available, sterilized, and in working order. The medical assistant orders supplies, maintains the equipment, and keeps patient logs and files.

One of the most important jobs for a medical assistant is establishing a working relationship between doctors and their patients. It’s usually the medical assistant who intercepts phone calls and greets the patients before a doctor speaks to the patient.

The medical assistant listens to what is troubling patients and can help soothe fears by reassuring them that they will receive excellent care.


As technology in general continues to evolve, so has technology in the health care field. A medical assistant will have a role in administrative tasks.

The implementation of electronic health records (EHR) is changing the technology in doctors’ offices. As EHR is used more often, medical assistants are finding themselves entering more patient data. This data includes medical histories, lab results, treatment plans, allergies, and a list of medications used. This information will be available anywhere the patient needs to go for care.

Possible Career Paths

By becoming a medical assistant, you are choosing a career path that has many possibilities. It’s up to you to decide if you would prefer to be a clinical medical assistant or a medical office assistant.

Medical Office Assistant

Unlike medical assistants, medical office assistants work in an office environment with responsibilities such as answering phones, checking patients in, scheduling appointments, filing and processing insurance claims, handling patient payments, and maintaining office supplies and inventory.

They may supervise other staff, aid in keeping the waiting areas neat and clean, transcribe doctor’s notes, file patient records, perform medical coding, and bill patients and insurance companies.

The role of the medical office assistant is expected to grow at a fast pace, due to the aging population and the growing health care field. It can be a very rewarding and fulfilling career path.

Medical Office Assistant Skills

As a medical office assistant, good communication skills are essential. These professionals deal with other office employees and patients, as well as insurance personnel, pharmaceutical reps, and other medical professionals.

Another important skill is prioritization. It’s important to prioritize the most important tasks to get everything completed in a timely manner. The medical office assistant will find the skill of multitasking is especially useful in solving many different problems.

Computer skills are also very important, including knowledge of both database and spreadsheet applications.

Doctors’ Offices

Medical office assistants can work in most any medical environment. If working in a smaller environment is more desirable, then working in a clinic or private doctor’s office may be a good fit. Medical office assistants will answer phones and make appointments as part of the daily routine, opening regular mail and emails.

With medical office assistants’ knowledge of medical terminology, they are involved in medical coding and billing and handling insurance claims.

Other Possible Duties

Medical office assistants are in charge of a patient’s files. They maintain the filing and record keeping systems, both by using a computer and possibly hard copy files.

Duties vary due to doctor specialties and the size of the practice. Medical office assistants arrange clinical procedures and lab work, transfer the results, and follow up with the appropriate personnel. They also may assist patients with referrals to a specialist.

The medical office assistant oversees the office or assists an office manager to make sure everything runs smoothly.


Patient management software is used in medical offices. This software enables the medical office assistant to file insurance claims, bill, and update a patient’s health records. It is used also to set appointments and code insurance claims. The use of electronic medical records (EMR) may also be used. Microsoft Word, Excel, and QuickBooks are also frequently used in medical facilities, along with transcription devices.

Possible Career Paths

Medical office assistants have many opportunities for growth in the health care field. Both medical clinical and office positions have some of the same requirements and require similar skills and duties. Hopefully this has given you an idea of what the medical assistant and medical office assistant jobs require and will help you in your career planning.

Did learning about the similarities and differences between medical assistants vs medical office assistants interest you? There are many reasons to consider being a medical assistant vs medical office assistants. However, both offer a rewarding career, helping others in the process.

Do you have what it takes to become a medical assistant? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field? 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.

The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship at a medical facility where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.

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 students receive an in-depth education in computer data entry of patient information, patient files, filing systems and records, insurance claim filing, and billing and coding.

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