Do You have the Skills You Need to be a Medical Office Assistant?

When we are around high school age, we start asking family members and friends who are of working age about their jobs to better understand if what they do is something we might like for our own career. We take career aptitude tests, do job shadowing and sometimes even daydream and guess at what a job is all about to determine if it’s what we want to do in the future.

The truth is, unless we actually try a job, it’s really challenging to know what it’s all about and whether we will like it. This is especially true in the medical field.

Someone may have great people skills and have an interest in helping others with their health care needs, but how can they know if they have the skills that will allow them to do the job well and enjoy it? When it comes to health care, some people decide to take a Medical Office Assistant course, which is a great idea, but these potential students likely still don’t know what skills will make them successful in their career until they go through the course or start the job.

Fortunately, some Medical Office Assistant programs focus on the necessary skills as part of the training. However, it’s a good idea to know if you’re a good fit for the job BEFORE you invest the time and money in a Medical Office Assistant course and this blog can help. We’ve spoken to those in the field, asked graduates of our Medical Office Assistant program and checked job descriptions to help you fully understand the skills you need to excel in this part of the medical field.

But first, let’s cover the basics of the job to better understand why certain skills are required.

The Role of a Medical Office Assistant

A Medical Office Assistant (MOA) is an administrative position within the health care field. Here are a few of the things they do on a day-to-day basis:

– Greeting patients – this may be on the phone or in person. Greeting patients in a healthcare setting requires professionalism, confidentiality and yet a friendly manner. You may also need to assist patients with forms (like updated insurance information or new address or phone number), updating patient records and/or asking questions or helping with a questionnaire to assist with assessments;

 – Scheduling appointments – this may be on the phone, by email or in person, depending upon the technology used by a medical office. MOAs not only book existing patients but also help new patients if the office is accepting new patients;

– Planning for appointments – many MOAs pull all patient records for the day as one of their first tasks of the morning, confirm scheduled appointment times and assist with referrals to specialists for scans, blood tests and other types of testing, analysis or treatment;

 – Serving as a guide – before or after getting the patient to their exam room, MOAs may need to record a patient’s height, weight and blood pressure. MOAs also often set up the exam room with the proper instruments;

 – Communication by phone to a variety of people (patients, suppliers, insurance companies), processing and preparing medical files and managing other administrative tasks are a day-to-day part of the job. This can include managing billing and insurance paperwork;

– Additionally, MOAs manage the office and medical supplies and equipment as needed.

It’s a multi-faceted job in what is most often a high-paced environment. With that in mind, let’s look at the skills required to do this kind of job. Keep in mind that if you choose to take a Medical Office Assistant Course, the program is likely to include an emphasis on these skills and will help you determine if you are a natural fit for this career.

Top Skills for a Medical Office Assistant

There are some skills needed by a Medial Office Assistant that are quite obvious: great customer service, a pleasant manner in stressful situations and enjoyment of helping others. But skills aren’t always obvious. Some noted by Work BC in their work-related skills for what they call a Medical Administrative Assistant are less intuitive, but just as important. These include:

– Active Listening. This means taking the time to listen to what patients (and others in the medical practice) are saying. There should be no interruptions and no assumptions. It includes asking questions at pauses in order to clarify information.

– Reading comprehension. Because of the number of reports and factual information involved in a Medical Office Assistant’s job, there must be a comprehensive ability to read, digest and understand information.

– Writing and Speaking. In job postings, this is often referred to as communication skills and for a Medical Office Assistant, being able to provide information at the appropriate level of the audience is key. There will be times when an MOA needs to help a patient understand written or verbal information that has been provided to them. While this is not a case of providing medical opinions, it may be a time when breaking down the language into more easily understood phrases is required.

– Time Management. Anyone who has visited a medical office recently knows there is no “slow time” in the health care field. An MOA must be able to manage their time effectively in order to meet deadlines and the needs of doctors, patients and others within their communication circle.

Taking a Medical Office Assistant program is a great first step to working in the health care field. Before enrolling, get to know if your skills line up with those that make for a successful career. You’ll need the ability to help others with their health care needs on a daily basis, great communication, the ability to actively listen and strong time management skills. If you’ve always wanted to be a part of a medical team, but want to do so from an administrative point of view, this may be the right career choice!

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