Chapter 1 Introduction to Medical Assisting

This chapter provides an overview of the profession of medical assisting. It discusses the roles and responsibilities of the medical assistant as well as the importance of having a solid foundation of knowledge in order to be successful in the field.

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1.1 What is Medical Assisting?

Medical assistants are multi-skilled health professionals specifically trained to work in outpatient settings such as medical offices and clinics. The demand for qualified Medical Assistants is increasing rapidly as the health care industry grows. If you are a people person who enjoys working with others and has a sincere desire to help others, a career as a medical assistant may be right for you.

Medical Assistants perform both clerical and clinical duties. Clerical duties may include answering telephones, greeting patients, scheduling appointments, collecting co-payments, and handling correspondence. Clinical duties may include taking medical histories and recording vital signs, preparing patients for examination, explaining treatment procedures to patients, administering medications (as directed by a physician or other licensed health care provider), performing basic laboratory tests, and sterilizing medical instruments.

1.2 History of Medical Assisting

In the early days of medicine, people became sick and died without really understanding why. Doctors were few and far between, and most medical care was provided by family members or untrained individuals. There was little evidence to support any particular medical treatment, and many treatments were based on superstition or folk tales. As a result, the practice of medicine was often more harmful than helpful.

Over time, however, the practice of medicine has evolved. New technologies have been developed, and new theories have been proposed. We now have a better understanding of how the human body works, and we can use this knowledge to diagnose and treat illness.

Medical assistants play an important role in this evolution. They are the link between doctor and patient, and they play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive the best possible care.

The history of medical assisting is relatively short, but it is a history that is full of drama and adventure. Join us as we explore the origins of this important profession.

1.3 The Role of Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are allied health professionals who support the work of physicians, primarily in outpatient or ambulatory care settings. In addition to performing administrative tasks, medical assistants (MAs) may also perform clinical duties, such as taking patient medical histories and vital signs, preparing patients for exams, and assisting with basic laboratory procedures. MAs are usually supervised by a physician or another health care professional.

The scope of practice for medical assistants varies by state. Some states allow MAs to perform certain tasks that are normally reserved for licensed health care professionals, such as giving injectable medications or taking X-rays. MAs in these states must complete additional training and pass a certification exam in order to perform these tasks.

The specific duties of a medical assistant depend on the type of healthcare facility in which they work, as well as the size and location of the facility. MAs who work in large hospitals or clinics may have more responsibility than those who work in small practices. MAs who work in rural areas may have a broader scope of practice than those who work in urban areas.

1.4 The Future of Medical Assisting

The contemporary medical assistant is a highly skilled allied health professional who supports the physician and other members of the healthcare team in the delivery of patient care. As the healthcare system evolves to meet the needs of an aging population and the demand for more cost-effective care, medical assistants will play an increasingly important role in meeting these challenges.

The comprehensive scope of contemporary medical assisting practice includes Clinical tasks such as taking patient histories and performing physical exams; Laboratory procedures such as specimen collection and performing basic lab tests; Administrative duties such as scheduling appointments and handling billing and insurance paperwork; And patient education tasks such as providing health promotion information and instructions on self-care.

As patients assume greater responsibility for their own health care and take a more active role in managing their chronic conditions, medical assistants will be called upon to provide more extensive counseling and instruction. Medical assistants will also be expected to play a greater role in population health management, helping to identify patients at risk for certain conditions and providing resources and support to help them make lifestyle changes that can prevent or delay the onset of disease.

1.5 The Education and Training of Medical Assistants

The education and training of medical assistants vary considerably from country to country and even from state to state in the United States The medical assistant’s scope of practice is also determined by the laws of each state in which the medical assistant works. A few countries have certification programs for medical assistants, but certification is not required for practice in most countries.

In the United States, there are countless ways to become a medical assistant. One can complete a certificate, diploma, or associate degree program at a community college, vocational school, or technical institute. Certificate programs are generally the shortest in length, taking about one year to complete. Diploma programs usually take two years to finish, while an associate degree takes approximately two years to earn if the student completes the program on a full-time basis.

1.6 The Certification of Medical Assistants

The Certification of Medical Assistants (CMA) is a voluntary process that ensures that individuals who have completed an accredited medical assisting program and have passed a rigorous exam have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high quality patient care. The CMA credential is recognized by most employers as the gold standard for medical assistants.

The CMA credential is granted by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To earn the CMA credential, candidates must pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. The exam is comprised of two parts: a computer-based knowledge exam and a skills demonstration.

Candidates must complete an accredited medical assistant program before they are eligible to take the CMA Exam. There are several ways to become accredited, including completing an accredited associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate program, or passing an accredited medical assistant training program.

1.7 The Licensure of Medical Assistants

The services medical assistants perform have a direct impact on the health and lives of patients. In most states, licensure is not required for medical assistants. However, as the demand for qualified medical assistants grows, so does the need for regulation in the profession.

An increasing number of states are enacting legislation to ensure that only those who are properly trained and credentialed are allowed to work as medical assistants. In some states, certification is required by law; in other states, certification is not required but employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants.

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. To earn this credential, medical assistants must graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a national certification exam. The CMA credential is recognized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as evidence of having met certain standards of competence.

1.8 The Registration of Medical Assistants

Registration of medical assistants is a process whereby an individual is granted certification by a professional organization after meeting certain requirements. The purpose of registration is to protect the public by ensuring that only those medical assistants who have demonstrated the necessary skills and knowledge are allowed to practice.

Registration is not mandatory in all states, but most employers prefer to hire registered medical assistants. In addition, many insurance companies will not reimburse patients for services provided by unregistered medical assistants.

There are two main organizations that offer certification for medical assistants: the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT). To be eligible for certification, candidates must meet certain educational and experience requirements and pass a credentialing examination.

Once certified, medical assistants must renew their certification every few years to maintain their registration. Renewal typically entails completing continuing education credits and paying a renewal fee.

1.9 The Job Description of Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are multi-skilled health professionals specifically trained to work in outpatient settings such as medical offices and clinics. Their scope of practice is determined by state law and may include administrative and clinical tasks.

Common administrative duties performed by medical assistants include answering telephones, scheduling appointments, verifying insurance coverage, and coding and filling out insurance forms. Clinical duties performed by medical assistants may include taking patient medical histories, recording vital signs, performing routine laboratory tests, explaining procedures to patients, exposing and developing diagnostic radiographs (x-rays), assisting the physician during examinations, and instructing patients about medications.

1.10 The Salary of Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are in high demand and their salaries reflect that. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for medical assistants in 2018 was $33,610 per year. The top 10% of earners made more than $47,880 per year, and the bottom 10% made less than $24,370 per year.

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