Diagnosing health conditions and taking care of the sick and injured poses enough challenges to fill the day of medical professionals. They do not have the time to deal with administrative tasks, such as processing files or sending out bills, that all medical offices must perform to survive as businesses. Medical office administrators typically take care of these jobs.
Sometimes called medical secretaries or administrative assistants, administrators oversee organizational and clerical tasks in doctors’ offices, hospital departments and other health-care facilities. They provide customer service by answering phone calls, writing letters and responding to patient questions. They also process information by receiving patient forms, entering diagnosis and treatment details into computers, and filing medical records. In addition, they oversee the flow of money by sending out bills, accepting payments, and ordering supplies. In a small clinic, one administrator may handle all of the tasks, while a large hospital may divide the jobs among specialists, such as billing or medical records.
Many businesses demand only a high-school diploma for entry-level administrators, especially if they’ve taken courses in office skills, English and computers in school. Because professionals in health-care must be familiar with medical terminology and procedures, administrators may also need post-secondary training from vocational schools or community colleges. Virginia College, for example, offers a two-year associate degree in medical office administration. The program teaches medical law and ethics, medical terminology and records systems, accounting, office automation and customer service. The curriculum includes an externship, which provides hands-on experience.
New administrators may start on simple tasks, such as processing mail, under supervision. As they gain more experience, they receive greater responsibilities and may be promoted to senior positions that can perform many jobs independently, such as planning medical meetings. Administrators who show organizational acumen and study for a bachelor’s degree in health administration can become managers who develop operational procedures and define budgets. They can hire and train subordinate administrators and monitor their work progress.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for medical office administrators will increase by 41 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is far greater than the 12 percent projected for administrators in all industries, and more than the 14 percent expected for all other occupations. America’s large baby-boom population will be aging during the decade and will require more health-care to lead quality lives. Administrators are thus needed to oversee providers of medical care. Opportunities will be best for those with extensive knowledge of the software applications needed to process electronic health records.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Summary Report for Medical Secretaries
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant
- Virginia College: Medical Office Administration
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Medical or Health Services Manager
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
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