What is a Medical Assistant’s Role?

The medical assistant performs administrative and clinical duties focused on patient care and efficient office work-flow in an ambulatory medical facility under the direct supervision of the doctor for whom they work. This could be private, single provider and group medical practices (HMO), walk-in wellness clinics, and ambulatory medical emergency facilities to name a few.  There they handle daily medical office routines and a list of unforeseen situations that typically require fast thinking and immediate action.

Some medical assistants serve in a more general position, others are highly specified in their duties. Medical assistants in the front reception area have specialized in administrative procedures. They greet, register and check in existing and new patients, help them fill out required forms, releases and other paperwork, explain services, their cost and what the patient’s responsibilities will be. They verify health insurance coverage and put together the patient’s medical chart.

The medical assistant in the back office predominantly focuses on clinical tasks. They escort patients to the examination room to record vital signs and a brief medical history and perform tests that require special devices, such as a Holter Monitor, oxygen-, cardio-pulmonary and respiratory device, or the electrocardiograph (EKG/ECG machine) and administer injections and medications as ordered by the physician.

Illy, a Certified Medical Assistant, shared the following with us:

“Medical assistants are vital to a clinic. We do it all. I room up to 30 patients a day by myself. When I am not rooming, I am helping the receptionist answer multiple phone lines, medical records, faxing prescriptions, filing, preparing charts for future appointments. I am great at what I do and my paycheck reflects that. I feel like I am doing the work I was born to do.”

The list of duties is long:

  • Maintain patient’s safe passage in and out of the clinic, and ancillary services
  • Greet, assess and interview patients
  • File paperwork, lab slips, and insurance information into the medical charts
  • Obtain past medical and surgical history, family history, social history, vital signs
  • Review present medications, allergy history, chief complaint, and brief interrogation of complaint
  • Act as a liaison between doctor and patient
  • Explain medication, side effects, treatments, diets, diseases and disease processes
  • Update medication list and current problem list
  • Prepare and aid patients for examination, treatment, or procedure by medical staff
  • Anticipate needs of patients, and the doctor under whom I work
  • Monitor of patient during examination, or procedure
  • Maintain and update level of skill for pertinent medical assistant duties
  • Maintain patient care areas
  • Stocking and ordering of supplies as needed
  • Charge and code supplies, medications, and procedures
  • Respond to patient’s concerns in person or by telephone while simultaneously documenting the problem
  • Maintain patient confidentiality
  • Participate in training and skills development of new medical assistants

Handling these responsibilities requires attention to detail, flexibility and a keen understanding of patient care and  medical office services in a typical healthcare setting.

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