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What are the duties of a medical office assistant?

A Medical Office Assistant or MOA can work in many different types of medical offices, interacting with visitors and patients, and performing both administrative and clinical duties. A Medical Office Assistant never examines or treats a patient, which is work done by a physician or nurse. A MOA may have to explain medical instructions and procedures in order to ease the worries of both patients and their families. Some of the other names for an MOA are medical receptionist, appointment scheduler, front office assistant, medical office secretary, medical records clerk or medical biller. Some of the places where an MOA might work include medical centers, doctor's offices, local clinics, medical billing offices, hospitals, ambulatory care centers and nursing homes; the work is both administrative and clinical.

The administrative job duties of a Medical Office Assistant may include such front desk work as answering telephones, greeting arrivals, asking for the purpose of the visit and directing people to the proper place to go. An MOA might ask a patient for insurance information, schedule future appointments, adjust appointment scheduling or arrange for a patient's hospital admission. An MOA will update electronic medical records, process the initial intake of medical details and coordinate insurance billing for patients.

There may be some back office administrative duties, such as bookkeeping, office correspondence, email and handling accounts payable and accounts receivable. Work will involve use of fax machines, photocopy machines and computers. An MOA may work with medical insurance billing and coding, billing for laboratory services and the recording and monitoring of a medical office's compliance with the Federal OSHA, HIPAA and other guidelines.

Some of the clinical duties of a Medical Office Assistant may include the intake of a patient's medical history, the preparation of a patient for a medical exam by a doctor, the taking and recording a patient's vital signs, and whatever assistance a doctor may need during a patient exam.

The salary of an MOA will depend greatly on the region of the country, the size of the employer, your own skills and experience and whether the position is salaried or hourly. As of the first decade of the 21st century, an average annual MOA salary will be around $30,000, but could be as low as $20,000 and as high as $40,000 -- the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of May 2009, that the average annual salary was $29,450 and that MOA pay is highest in hospitals and colleges and lowest in the offices of private doctors.

Anyone interested in a career as a Medical Office Assistant should be both organized and polite. College-level courses in medical subjects such as medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, medical law and medical ethics are a good start for anyone interested in this career, but a completed MOA degree or certificate program would be even better for someone who wants to get hired as an MOA. Office skills, such as business math, accounting and computer literacy, would also be useful for getting an MOA position.