Ready to start working in medicine? If you are someone that wants to help in the medical field but not sure if you want to provide clinical services to patients, you can join the team as a medical office assistant. You will be an important part of the team, helping physicians and medical assistant, freeing up their time to help more patients. You will be in the medical office, answering phones and managing clerical duties. So, what skills do you need to be a medical office assistant?
What are Medical Office Skills?
There are many skills that you will need to be successful in a medical office. Most of your time will include interaction with computers and people. From communication to teamwork and everything in between. It is important to improve your medical office skills since you are responsible for patient outcomes and the financial health of the medical facility. It’s a challenging career but by graduating from a medical office administration program, you will build the right skill set to set yourself up for success.
Skill #1: Computer Skills
At a medical office, you will use many different computer programs like medical patient software, Microsoft Office and electronic health records (EHR). Having the ability to adapt to new computer programs is an important skill to have, especially working in a medical office. Technology moves fast and there is always a new software, application or interface that you must become familiar with. Being good with computers is an important skill to master.
Skill #2: Communication
As a medical office assistant, you will talk with many people on your medical team. You work with physicians, nurses, medical assistants and other medical staff to assist patients. You talk with vendors to order supplies, insurance companies to manage claims and patients about billing. Communication that is clear and concise is important so there are no misunderstandings or delays in treatment.
To be a good communicator, you must listen to what is said. Only after you know what the other person has asked can you properly respond. Good communicators are friendly and empathic to others. Good communication is professional, especially with patients. There is no time to gossip with coworkers or take phone calls from family and friends. Show respect for patients and colleagues and they will show respect back.
You will also need to interpret body language and non-verbal cues to properly assist patients. They may say one thing, but their body language says something different. It is your responsibility to understand what the patient wants and help them in a friendly manner. Some patients will speak different languages or not understand what you are saying as they may be hard of hearing. Non-verbal communication can be used to allow others to understand, and in urgent situations you can find someone to translate, like a colleague or family member.
Skill #3: Flexibility
It will be your responsibility as a medical office assistant to fill in when others are out of the office or when needed in an urgent situation. Whether answering phones, greeting patients or ordering supplies for the medical office, you will need to be flexible to help out the team anyway they need.
Flexibility is also key to complete all of your tasks. A physician may need something right away. You must prioritize your work to complete everything by deadline and be flexible enough to take care of urgent requests. The medical office moves quickly, and it is important to adapt.
Skill #4: Time Management
You only have a limited amount of time each day to get all your work done. Good time management involves prioritization and organization. Make sure you use your time wisely by taking care of the higher priority tasks first. Medical facilities are busy, and time goes by fast. Make sure to set goals that are reasonable and try meeting those goals in a timely manner.
Skill #5: Responsible
While working in a medical office, you will have many different people counting on you to show up on time and take ownership for your work. Patients expect timely service and physicians will delegate work to you. They expect your best, every time. Especially when a patient outcome is in the balance. Everyone should be able to depend on you, even when the going gets tough. Being responsible means that you honor your commitments and accept the consequences for your actions.
Skill #6: Problem Solving
There may come a time at the medical office where you have a problem that needs a quick solution. You may have two patients scheduled for the same time or an EKG is malfunctioning and need to get someone out to fix it right away. A good problem solver can identify the problem quickly, list the possible solutions and come to a quick consensus on the right solution. Are there other times available that one of the two patients can see the doctor? Can you get the technician out to fix the EKG late in the afternoon, so it is ready for the next day’s patients? There will always be problems, but it is up to you to stay calm, identify the exact problem and come up with a solution that meets everyone’s interests.
Skill #7: Teamwork
Part of the job, working in a medical office is teamwork. Everyone is working for the best patient outcomes. As a medical office assistant, you are an important member of the team and many will count on you to perform tasks and help around the office. You will work with physicians, nurses, medical assistants and other medical office staff to put patients first and make sure they get the care they need to stay healthy, both physically and financially.
What are some practical medical office skills?
You will also need some practical medical office skills that you will learn both in a medical office administration program and while on the job at your entry-level position at a medical facility. You will create schedules, answer phones, greet patients, manage medical billing and coding, do light bookkeeping and keep information confidential.
Skill #8: Creating Schedules
While working in a medical office, you will have many different schedules to manage. Each physician and nurse will have their own schedules and you will need to schedule appointments and fill up their calendars without leaving any patients waiting too long. This takes skill and practice to have enough patients to fill the physician’s calendar but not have too many patients come in at once, so they have to wait too long in the waiting room.
Skill #9: Answering Phones
As a medical office assistant, you will help answer the phones. There will be patients that have questions or appointments, vendors that need to deliver supplies and other medical offices that need medical records to help out patients. During a medical office administration program, you will learn how to properly answer the phone with the proper tone and within a minimum number of rings. You are representing the medical facility with callers so friendly and professional conversation is key.
Skill #10: Greeting Patients
When the medical secretary or medical assistant aren’t available, as the medical office assistant you will help greet patients. You will need to be professional and friendly. You may be the first person to greet the patient at the medical facility, so it is important to make a good first impression.
Skill #11: Medical Billing and Coding
During a medical office administration program, you will become familiar with the different medical coding protocols. They include ICD-10, HCPCS and CPT. These are important to keep track of patient procedures, treatments and their billing. Medicare and insurance companies expect you to use the correct codes so that claims are approved in a timely manner. Using the wrong code can slow down treatment for a patient or reduce cash flow for the facility. There is a proper code for every procedure, treatment, diagnosis and medical supply. It is up to you to use the appropriate code to keep the medical facility running smoothly.
Skill #12: Light Bookkeeping
As a medical office assistant, you may be responsible for financial transaction, like managing patient bills, paying vendors and managing accounts payable and receivables. During a medical office administration program, you will learn how to manage the bookkeeping in a medical facility. You will use tools like QuickBooks to take care of the basic bookkeeping.
Skill #13: Confidentiality
As a medical professional you will be responsible for keeping patient information confidential as part of the HIPPA Act of 1996. When you are on the phone, you won’t want to talk about other patient’s information. If you are at the front desk, you don’t want to leave another patient’s information on your screen for anyone to see. If a medical facility requests medical records, you should send them electronically as sending paper copies or faxes might get into the wrong hands. A patient must trust medical professionals with very personal information, and it is up to you to keep it confidential.
Do you have the skills to work in a medical office? If you don’t have all of them yet, don’t worry. You will learn much of what you need in a medical office administration program. You will learn how to communicate, keep everything confidential, manage clerical duties and keep patients happy. You will be an indispensable asset to the medical office so start your journey to a new career today.
Want to learn the skills to become a medical office assistant? Gwinnett College offers diploma and degree programs in medical office administration. Both diploma and degree programs include training in office and computer skills, medical office terminology and coding, processing insurance payments, and managing electronic health records (EHRs). The Medical Office Administration diploma program is designed for Gwinnett College students seeking to train for an entry-level career in a medical office assistant environment.
Contact us to learn more about how you can become a medical office assistant today.