Medical assistants are hired to provide specific technical supportive and patient care services in an ambulatory medical office setting. The supervising physician, licensed, practicing healthcare provider, or clinician who hired them authorizes these services to patients who are under his, or her care. These services, whenever provided must be a usual and customary part of the medical office, or practice where the medical assistant is employed. A record of any medical care and services rendered must be made in the patient’s medical record or chart by the medical assistant who provided it, indicating the name, initials or other identifier, the date and time, and a brief description of what was done signed, or initialed by the physician who gave the order. The supervising physician may, at his or her discretion, provide written instructions to be followed in the performance of such tasks. It is the physician’s responsibility to assure the medical assistant is competent and proficient in performing any such delegated technical and patient care services at the appropriate standard of care. According to Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, and executive director and legal counsel for the American Association of Medical Assistants, the standard of care of a reasonably competent medical assistant is not necessarily the same in all parts of the United States.
Good medical office management is a prerequisite to excellent patient care, customer services and a facility to run smoothly, safely and profitably. It is in the best interest of the medical office staff and patients to properly manage the practice, but naturally, each one comes with its own set of rules, policies and challenges—when they occur they must be instantly recognized, addressed, handled and resolved by virtue of the special knowledge and experience of the medical office’s practice manager.
Role and Function of the Medical Practice Manager
The decisions they make directly affects nearly every aspect of a practice’s operations–from staffing to hiring and firing, financial performance reports and studies, productivity, budget development and implementation, benchmarking operating procedures and revenue, input to management on the development of policies and procedures, and last but not least, coordinating the staff’s and doctor’s appointments, work shedules, shift coverages and vacation time.
Considering the diversity of functions, someone holding an office manager position is expected to have many talents which only years of experience and special training can provide. Some of the competencies which the medica office manager is expected to possess are problem solving and decision making abilities, integrity, assertivity, flexibility, accuracy and the ability to cope with pressure. Of course, with all this additional responsibility comes better wages, more benefits and higher salary.
Many community colleges and universities offer excellent healthcare management training and professional membership associations provide industry recognized credentials. Here is a small collection of the better known ones:
- American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) – credentials and continuing education
- Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) – education and certification
- Professional Association of Health Care Office Managers (PAHCOM)
- Professional Office Managers Association of America (POMAA) – several different certifications
- Practice Management Institute – several certifications
But not every medical practice manager you encounter is alsways formally trained. An experienced medical assistant with years of experience, whether in different offices, locations and specialties, or in the same medical practice under the same doctor, can work his or her way up into supervisory positions and eventually become the medical office manager through dedication, continuing education, and excellent work ethics and interest. This is demonstrated by obtaining recognized medical assistant certifications, participation in continuing education programs, workshops and seminars, online course work and simply by always being proactive and engaged.