What Does an Administrative Medical Assistant Do?
While a lot of medical assistants are generalists in the sense that their role involves a mix of both clinical and administrative duties along with the general responsibilities of being a medical assistant, some may choose to specialize in either an administrative or clinical role.
The job of an administrative medical assistant is to play a vital role in the smooth running of the front desk or reception area of a hospital, physicians’ office or other healthcare facility. In addition to performing a customer service role, admin medical assistants provide support and assistance to medical staff in caring for patients, but their focus is primarily on clerical tasks rather than clinical duties.
Skills and Qualities Required
Working in the front office, an administrative medical assistant will usually be the first person a patient meets. It is therefore important that they give a good first impression as this will influence a patient’s perception of the professionalism and competencies of the practice as a whole. The personal qualities needed to be an effective administrative medical assistant include:
- Good communication and listening skills
- Good time management
- The ability to multi-task
- Professional behavior
- A positive attitude
- A neat and tidy appearance
Administrative medical assistants need to have excellent customer service skills since a large part of the job involves dealing with patients, both on the phone and face to face. You will need to be able to stay calm and always act professionally when interacting with other people, as there are likely to be stressful situations involving distressed or upset patients. Even when the busy workload and multitasking might seem overwhelming, a medical assistant needs to remain clearheaded and efficient.
Time management skills are essential to perform the job efficiently and to deliver the best level patient care. In a medical office, patients who are there in person should take priority over those on the phone (unless in an emergency call situation). Certain tasks will be time sensitive and need to take priority over others. For example, there will be deadlines for filing insurance claims and patient record requests for next day surgeries that need to be dealt with as a priority.
As the role of an administrative medical assistant is to perform clerical duties, a high level of competency in computer use, such as word processing and spreadsheet skills, is vital. You will also need to be competent in medical coding and billing. You will be taught all these skills on an accredited training program either at a school, career college or online.
A typical working day for an administrative medical assistant will be made up of a mix of clerical duties and speaking with patients. Duties may include:
- Handling and maintaining patient records
- Phoning patients to schedule appointments
- Carrying out inpatient and outpatient admissions and procedures
- Answering the phone
- Dealing with insurance forms
- Procedural and diagnostic coding for reimbursement
- Billing and collection
- Bookkeeping and other financial procedures
- Ordering medical inventory
- Arranging hospital admissions and lab tests
How much does a medical administrative assistant make? Based on May 2012 figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics1 the median annual salary for medical assistants was $29,370, with the lowest 10 percent earning a yearly income of $21,080 or less and the top 10 percent making $41,570 or more. The amount of pay varies according to the place of work. Most medical assistants are employed in physicians’ offices, where the average hourly wage equated to an average salary of $30,740. For outpatient care centers this was $31,980 and for general medical surgical hospitals was $31,750. The highest average salary was $42,250 for those working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals.
If you choose to become an administrative medical assistant, you will need to complete a certificate, diploma or degree program either online or at a traditional school or college. When deciding on the best medical assistant program for you, make sure you select a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). This demonstrates that a training program has credibility and legitimacy and that it complies with predetermined standards of education. For a program to be approved for accreditation it must meet or exceed thresholds in key areas such as graduation rates and exam pass rates.
Accreditation is important because only graduates of accredited training programs are eligible to sit for certification exams. Although there is no requirement to become certified after completing your education, many employers prefer hiring medical assistants with credentials such as Certified Medical Assistant, CMA (AAMA) or Registered Medical Assistant, RMA (AMT). In addition, credentialed medical assistants may be able to earn a higher annual salary or hourly wage, so there are benefits to taking a test to earn an additional professional qualification.
There are several professional allied health organizations that offer examinations to be awarded a nationally recognized credential. Those titles that relate specifically to administrative medical assisting include:
American Medical Technologists – Certified Medical Administrative Specialist, CMAS (AMT)
National Center for Competency Testing – National Certified Medical Office Assistant, NCMOA (NCCT)
National Healthcareer Association – Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, CMAA (NHA)
Please read our guide on how to become a certified medical assistant for more information on certification.
A campus-based or online degree program in administrative medical assisting will provide training courses in various areas, including medical terminology and ethics in addition to clerical skills such as office management, insurance filing procedures, billing and coding. However, it will not teach students clinical procedures, so if you sign up for this type of program you will need to be sure why you want to specialize in the administrative side of medical assisting.
Many students complete their training on a general program that includes clinical medical assisting. This will enable them to begin their career in an entry level job and keep their options open with regard to specializing in a certain area. This strategy will give them the option to focus primarily on administrative medical assisting in the future if they choose and give them a broader choice of career advancement options depending on the demand from employers.
Remember, whichever type of medical assistant degree or diploma program you choose, make sure that it is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). For your convenience, we have listed the accredited medical assistant schools on our website.
If you plan to become certified after completing your training, look for a program that offers classes and practice tests to prepare for the certification exam that you want to take. The top medical assistant schools are those with the best job placement rates, so look for those that offer support to help graduates find employment in the medical assisting field.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Assistants ↩