The medical assistant’s role is as diverse, colorful, and varied as the scrubs and uniforms they wear. Their main function is to assist and support doctors within the practice so they can better focus directly on their patient’s health issues. Medical assistants cover daily operational functions at the front desk which also covers the reception area, waiting room, administrative areas and archives, as well as the back office clinical and laboratory floors, examination and treatment rooms, storage and restrooms. Their duties range from registering new patients, verifying health insurance coverage, organizing examination rooms, giving out appointments, collecting and processing co-payments, keeping medical records organized, assisting during a procedure, obtaining and preserving diagnostic specimens, sorting laboratory result printouts and following upon patient calls. From time to time skilled medical assistants also perform on-site laboratory rapid screening tests in compliance with CLIA standards to help doctors determine which medications or further laboratory tests need to be ordered.
The medical office manager plans and confirms the doctor’s meeting and speaking schedules and when they will be working out of the office, e.g. at a contracted hospital. They secure replacements and coverage when the doctor is out of town attending a seminar, make bank deposits and pay utility and other bills, and often unless it is outsourced to a CPA, write paychecks and log staff member’s time cards. Also, they may handle the medical billing aspects of the office unless it is forwarded to medical coding and billing firm. It all depends on the size and specific needs of the practice.
When a new medical assistant is hired it should be made clear, either verbally or in writing, what he/she is expected to do, which areas to cover and whom to work with as a team while under the doctor’s employ. Their job description should spell out technical tasks, such as “responsible for administering immunizations by injection”. This rule applies to non-certified, as well as certified medical assistants who often are held to higher standards, especially if they are medical assistants who specialized in a specific therapeutic field.
The medical office, or practice manager’s office is often somewhere to the side, or back area, often near secured areas and archives, where computers and databases, lockers, and storage rooms are kept. The medical office manager’s role compares to that of a symphony conductor, coordinating the front and back-office activities and needs. Usually, this role is filled by a highly experienced medical assistant, Registered Nurse (RN) with a strong medical office background, or a Health Information Manager with a (HIM) degree. Educational requirements vary by the type of organization and the work they do. Medical office manager’s specific responsibilities vary by the type of organization and may include keeping records, distributing mail, and planning and maintaining facilities. Sometimes it is the doctor’s spouse trained to handle this job. The medical office manager is typically involved in overseeing the office facilities, arranging for after-hours cleaning, reporting problems with the building and the hiring and firing process.