When a patient goes in ‘to see the doctor’ nowadays, what he will actually be doing is meeting up with an entire team that likely includes one or more medical assistants. Medical assistance is one of the fastest growing fields in the medical care field, and the number of graduates that enter the workforce is increasing all the time.
In any medical setting, medical assistants are often the first and last professionals that patients will interact with during the course of consultation and/or treatment. Whether it is in a clinic, a doctor’s office, or a larger, more comprehensive medical care facility, medical assistants serve an increasingly more important role.
Medical assistants perform a broad and diverse array of tasks that include working in the reception area or the front desk, answering patients’ inquiries by phone, and filing important documents such as insurance forms, medical records, and more. In addition, they are also expected to perform a variety of tasks that place them in direct contact with patients in a clinical setting, such as collecting blood samples and preparing them for laboratory testing, administering medications via injection, and ensuring the accurate recording of patient medical histories. Other tasks that medical assistants may be assigned from time to time are assisting ophthalmologists and/or optometrists with vision testing procedures, and instructing patients on the proper insertion, removal and care of contact lenses.
As with many other healthcare and medical care-related disciplines, there is a growing demand for medical assistants all over the world. A number of factors have been attributed to the continually increasing demand for these and other medical care professionals. One of the most significant of these is the rise in number of baby boomers now reaching retirement age, who now require more medical care.
Just how urgent the need is for qualified medical assistants is highlighted by a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, in which a 29% employment growth is projected in the medical assistance industry in the years from 2012 to 2022. During that period, the Bureau anticipates the creation of nearly 163,000 new jobs in that particular field. Although there is significant growth in other medical care and healthcare-related areas as well, the projected growth in the medical assistance field is expected to eclipse all others.
The role of medical assistants encompasses administrative as well as clinical tasks. The specifics of their roles typically depend on factors such as the type of office or clinic in which they work, state and local laws, and the needs of their employer. Apart from the above-mentioned roles and responsibilities, medical assistants may also be required to schedule patient appointments, manage correspondence, and oversee billing concerns. Depending on the particular setting in which they work, medical assistants may also be required to assist physicians and surgeons directly in their duties. In general, most medical assistants in a clinical setting are tasked with the responsibility of enhancing the efficiency of the patient care process by making sure that the clinic or doctor’s office is running smoothly.