What is a Medical Office Administrator and How Do You Become One?

Sep 26, 2019 by

Does the medical field fascinate you? Does the thought of attending medical school and performing a hospital residency seem overwhelming? The good news is you don’t need to forfeit your medical career hopes and dreams — you can still pursue a rewarding career in the healthcare industry without MD at the end of your name. One such position is a medical office administrator. 

Are you proficient with computer software and programs? Do you enjoy interacting with people? If so, this might be the perfect career choice for you. But what exactly is a medical office administrator? This article will answer this question as well as what the job entails and the path to take to get there. Let’s get started!

What is a Medical Office Administrator?

A medical office administrator, also known as an administrative assistant or medical secretary, performs clerical tasks in a medical professional’s office. This could be a doctor’s office, health insurance company, laboratory, specialist’s office, or urgent care facility. While administrators don’t perform any medical procedures, they do need to have some understanding and knowledge of the medical field including technology, procedures, diagnosis, and terminology. 

Medical Office Administrator Responsibilities

As the office administrator, you’ll be responsible for organizing and managing all patient information, ordering all office supplies (including medical supplies), and may even become involved with project management. 

Basic job responsibilities include mostly clerical work from answering phones and scheduling appointments to organizing files and medical records. The good news is, in many offices, administrators have the opportunity to work closely with doctors when it comes to presentation prep by providing necessary paperwork and information. You’ll also work closely with most major health insurance companies when it comes time to submit claims

Through experience, medical office administrators gain vast knowledge about the medical field. You’ll soon become familiar with common medical procedures, illnesses, diagnosis, and treatment options. It’s also common for administrators to form lasting relationships with patients. You’ll need impeccable customer service skills when it comes to dealing with patients on a daily basis. From scheduling their appointments and making follow-up phone calls to bill collecting and requesting referrals, you’ll need patience and professionalism to succeed in this field. 

But your job description doesn’t end there. Knowledge of basic computer databases and some accounting background will also be very beneficial to your success as a medical office administrator. You may be asked to perform bookkeeping tasks, prepare tax and financial reports, process invoices, and bill both patients and insurance companies. Most medical offices use various types of software including spreadsheets, word processing, and accounting software. Knowledge of using basic office equipment is helpful also, including credit card, fax, and copy machines.

Medical Office Administrator Educational and Training Requirements

Now that you understand what responsibilities come along with the role of medical office administrator, let’s discuss what type of education and training you’ll need.

While a college degree isn’t required for this career, it can certainly help prepare you. A bachelor’s degree in health administration will offer not only the knowledge needed to perform the job, but also the credentials. Employers look for candidates with some form of medical background. Some of the skills you’ll gain when pursuing your bachelor’s degree include:

  • How to schedule staff and patients
  • Allocating duties
  • Hiring and firing clerical staff
  • Dealing with insurance companies 
  • Creating a caring, nurturing environment for patients
  • Staying compliant with laws and statutes 
  • Healthcare management and facility operations
  • Patient care
  • Medical terminology, diagnosis, and treatment options

Some medical administrators go on to complete a master’s degree program as well. Some facilities offer a dual-degree program where you can earn both your bachelor’s and master’s degree. These programs generally include internships, which allow for hands-on experience and training, working side-by-side with other professionals in the medical field. 

But as we said earlier, college isn’t for everyone. If you decide to forgo a degree program, you can look for medical office training. The good news is, medical training programs for administrators can be found in various colleges and technical schools across the country. Students will get a basic understanding of the medical process and structure. Educational programs range from certifications and diplomas to associate degrees. The primary skills covered include:

  • Bookkeeping software
  • Office management and inner-office relationships
  • Medical coding
  • Administrative tasks and methods
  • Office transcription 
  • Medical terminology
  • Inter-office communication
  • Health insurance overview 
  • Medical ethics
  • Anatomy

Every certification and degree program will offer students a different level of instruction. Not all programs provide the same credentials or experiences. Students must find the program that works best for them. One thing to consider is exactly what you want to do with your education and how far you plan to take it. Do you eventually want to pursue a degree in the medical field or are you content with a certification that allows you to work in a medical facility? The answers to these questions will help determine your educational path.

Looking to the Future

The future is bright for anyone pursuing a career in the healthcare industry  — whether you plan on attending nursing school or becoming a medical office administrator. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a career path is job security. 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field of medical administration will expand by a whopping 18% between 2018 and 2028. The average annual salary for this position hovers right around the $35,000 mark. You can also grow your career by furthering your education with training as a medical office manager. 

A job in the medical field doesn’t always require a doctoral degree. In fact, there are thousands of new jobs in the healthcare industry popping up every day. With advances in technology and new medical discoveries being made everyday, the medical field is booming and now’s the time to get involved.

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