What Does a Front Office Medical Assistant Do?

B. Miller

A front office medical assistant can refer to a few different job duties and tasks depending on the size of the medical office and the amount of training the individual in the job has had. In most cases, a front office medical assistant is the receptionist at the front desk of a medical office, who greets patients when they come in, schedules appointments, and deals with insurance information. He or she might also do medical coding and billing. In some offices, however, a medical assistant will have clinical duties as well, and may assist doctors and nurses in dealing with patients and maintaining the office, as well as scheduling lab tests.

A front office medical assistant typically answers the phones and schedules appointments.
A front office medical assistant typically answers the phones and schedules appointments.

For people interested in a career as a front office medical assistant, there are some certification and training programs available, many of which can be completed online in a few months. Some individuals will specialize in certain areas to make it even more likely they will get hired somewhere; common specialties include radiology, medical coding, or billing, just to name a few. Though a college degree is helpful, it is typically not required for this job; many front office medical assistants simply have a high school diploma.

A medical assistant may be responsible for asking patients about their medical needs before their appointment.
A medical assistant may be responsible for asking patients about their medical needs before their appointment.

The most common duties of a front office assistant include assisting patients and performing administrative office duties. The front office medical assistant will greet patients when they come in, answer phones to make appointments or answer questions, and collect insurance and address information. He or she will also frequently talk to insurance companies on the patient's behalf, and complete billing information. In addition to this work with patients, the assistant will generally also be responsible for maintaining files and records in the office, and doing other clerical duties, such as dealing with the mail and ordering supplies.

Front office medical assistants often maintain patient records.
Front office medical assistants often maintain patient records.

Other types of front office medical assistants, sometimes also referred to as clinical assistants, will assist doctors and nurses with patients directly. These people may do initial intake interviews with patients, for example, and may handle tasks such as taking vital signs. Most medical assistants will not do both -- working in the front office and in a clinical setting -- but will instead receive training in one area or another. In general, front office work is more common, because clinical office work is typically left to professionals such as nurses or physician assistants. Medical offices offer many different career opportunities for people willing to work hard, however.

Some front office medical assistants work with patients directly.
Some front office medical assistants work with patients directly.

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