More Patients Means Greater Demand for Medical Office Specialists

The demand for medical office specialists, administrative medical assistants and medical records clerks is going to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. The 200,000 people employed as medical office specialists today cannot possibly handle the 20 million new patients accessing the health care system due to the ACA, and hospitals and physician groups are already hiring medical office specialists to meet the demand. The rollout of the ACA is a major factor in the robust 31 percent job growth rate for medical assistants anticipated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics through 2020.

The duties of medical office specialists include patient intake, confirming patient appointment details, taking notes, as well as updating patient records and insurance databases. In many cases, administrative medical specialists also receive co-pays from patients, verify patient insurance and work with bookkeeping to file insurance claims.

You can get the education you need to become a medical office specialist at a local community college or vocational school or at an online school. Medical administration training programs typically take six to 12 months and you receive a certificate after completion of the program. A few schools offer administrative and clinical medical assistant training programs that require two years and result in an associate degree.

Your training program will include instruction in basic business practices and office procedures, as well as lots of practice in creating and maintaining a variety of electronic health records. Knowledge of EHR systems is going to be increasingly important for all medical professionals in the next few years, but medical office specialists in particular need to be familiar with EHR systems.

Medical administrative assistants who have earned a professional certification have an edge in landing a job. Certification typically requires graduating from an accredited training program and passing a comprehensive exam. Certifications for medical office specialists include the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) program offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) program offered by the American Medical Technologists, the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) program offered by the National Center for Competency Testing.

Medical records clerks are not required to be licensed in most states. However, medical assistants who have both clinical and administrative duties must be licensed in several states and municipalities.

The BLS reports that medical assistants as a group took home a median salary of $29,370 in 2012, and the top 10% earned more than $41,570. Many, but not all, medical admin assistant positions include benefits such as paid vacation, retirement plans and health insurance.

The influx of 20 million new patients into the healthcare system in the next few years means medical office specialists and related positions will be in great demand in doctor’s offices, clinics, nursing homes and hospitals across the country. Although medical assistants start near the bottom of the health care employee totem pole, hard-working medical records clerks have significant opportunities for career advancement. With experience, and maybe going back to school to get an associate degree in business or business management, you can be promoted to senior administrative assistant, and perhaps eventually move up to office manager.