Medical assistants manage both clinical and clerical tasks in health care settings. Jacks-of-all-trades, most have blended roles. However, you can choose a uniquely clinical or administrative position based on your aptitudes and preferences. Let’s examine the similarities and differences between clinical and administrative medical assistants.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants are trained to:
- Schedule appointments
- Greet patients
- Take vital signs
- Update medical records
- Draw blood
- Administer medications
- Collect biological samples
- Do diagnostic tests
- Manage infection control
- Assist with surgical procedures
- Perform wound care
- Fill out insurance forms
- Assist with billing and coding
- Order medical and office supplies
As physician’s liaisons, medical assistants bridge the divide between the office and exam room.
Medical Assistants vs Administrative Medical Assistants
The average medical assistant has a broad range of clinical and clerical responsibilities, many of which intersect. There are documentation and inventory management components, for example, built into each clinical task. However, many medical assistants choose to focus on clinical or administrative roles based on their aptitudes and preferences.
Clinical medical assistants focus on direct patient care. Their responsibilities include:
- Rooming patients
- Taking vital signs
- Reviewing drug and medical histories
- Giving medications
- Collecting urine and stool samples
- Sanitizing exam rooms
- Performing diagnostics such as EKGs
- Assisting with on-site procedures such as Pap smears and biopsies
- Removing sutures and applying light dressings
- Ordering medical supplies
- Clinical communication
Supervised by doctors and nurses, clinical medical assistants are at the heart of the healthcare team. Administrative medical assistants take on clerical duties, such as:
- Managing the schedule
- Registering patients
- Verifying insurance coverage
- Obtaining service pre-authorizations
- Handling referrals
- Billing and coding
- Completing insurance forms
- Clerical communication
Administrative medical assistants are supervised by practice administrators and are involved in all aspects of office management.
What Are the Benefits of Each Role?
Clinical and administrative medical assistants contribute equally to patient care but in different ways. And each role is similarly rewarding if it plays to your strengths and interests.
Clinical Role Benefits
As a clinical medical assistant, you’ll work with patients in a more personal way. It can be emotional at times, but if you’re a people person, you’ll thrive on building those unique therapeutic relationships.
Clinical medical assisting is also hands-on. From drawing blood and removing stitches to helping patients prepare for exams, you’ll be on the front lines, doing what it takes to help people get better. Clinical medical assistants also work with the latest equipment, performing diagnostics and participating in cutting-edge treatments. If you enjoy science, medicine and technology, no career is more satisfying.
Administrative Role Benefits
But what if you’re business-oriented? The good news is that there’s a role for you, too. Healthcare is both an art and a business, so administrative functions are an integral part of everything doctors do. As an administrative medical assistant, you’ll keep the office running smoothly by keeping a tight schedule. Patients depend on it for prompt care while providers rely on it for revenue.
You’ll also check patients in, verifying their demographic and insurance data while obtaining signed consent forms for treatment. The documentation created when patients arrive follows them from exam to billing, so accuracy is a must, doctors use it to make treatment decisions.
Administrative medical assistants coordinate with the clinical and billing teams to manage practice inventory and finances. You’ll use your clinical expertise to manage supplies and help with billing, ensuring that claims forms are correctly coded. Some claims are rejected initially because of errors or insufficient information. Getting it right the first time guarantees cash flow for the practice while insulating patients from unexpected bills.
Room for Advancement
Career trajectories are similar for clinical versus administrative medical assistants. There’s room for advancement in both positions. With continuing education and experience, clinical medical assistants can become team leaders while administrative medical assistants can grow into office supervisory roles.
How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?
An easy way to become a medical assistant is by enrolling in a vocational school program. If you attend full-time, you’ll graduate in as little as 9 months and qualify for the same entry-level positions as college-educated applicants. Upon graduation, a career advisor will work with you to help you find a job. It’s one of the many perks that make a vocational school education a great value.
Where Do Clinical and Administrative Medical Assistants Work?
Clinical and administrative assistants work in most of the same places, but some opportunities are role-specific, and responsibilities may vary.
Most medical assistants are employed in private practices, their blended skillset is ideal. However, larger practices offer both clinical and administrative positions.
In a doctor’s office, a clinical medical assistant will:
- Room patients
- Obtain vital signs
- Give medications
- Perform tests
- Assist with treatments and procedures
- Draw blood
- Work in the lab
- Sanitize exam rooms
- Care for equipment
- Sterilize instruments
- Educate patients
An administrative medical assistant will:
- Answer the phone
- Manage the schedule
- Check in patients
- Oversee inventory
- Order office supplies
- Assist with billing and data entry
- Filing and record management
Some medical assistants work in hospitals, but because patients are acutely ill, clinical roles are limited. Nurses manage most duties, but clinical medical assistants can work with stable patients in outpatient departments. Duties may include:
- Answering the phone
- Taking vital signs
- Collecting biological samples
- Escorting patients to treatment areas
Drawing blood and performing EKGs in acute care settings usually requires additional certifications.
In hospitals, there are more opportunities for administrative medical assistants as patient representatives, billing agents and unit clerks. Responsibilities may include:
- Greeting patients
- Completing pre-admission and discharge paperwork
- Contacting family for emergency admissions
- Verifying insurance information
- Compiling invoices
- Completing insurance claims
- Managing medical records
Larger than a doctor’s office but smaller than a hospital, clinics are a versatile environment for medical assistants. There is less staff, so responsibilities are less defined. Clinical and administrative roles may intersect more often than in other settings, so being flexible is important.
Clinical duties in a clinic may include:
- Obtaining vital signs
- Drawing blood
- Diagnostic testing
- Administering medications
- Assisting with treatments
- Patient education
Administrative duties in a clinic consist of:
- Overseeing the waiting area
- Managing workflow
- Researching prior records
- Filling out insurance claims
- Posting payments
Medical Billing Services
Billing services hire medical billing specialists and administrative medical assistants to manage bulk billing for physicians’ offices. Clinical medical assistants could work in this setting, but their skills would be wasted. If you enjoy working with patients, providers, and insurers to solve complex billing issues, this may be the role for you. The role includes:
- Fielding patient inquiries
- Managing invoices
- Researching insurance claims
- Tracking individual and third-party payments
- Reconciling accounts
The demand for medical assistants is growing, so why not turn your love of science, technology or business into a flexible career that can satisfy many interests? Train now for a better future doing a job you can be proud of.
Want to Learn More?
The objective of this Medical Assistant training program at Peloton College is to prepare the student for employment as an entry-level Medical Assistant performing administrative, clerical, and clinical duties within the health care field.
The mission of Peloton College is to be the premier provider of hands-on training and education by providing students and graduates with the necessary skills to secure occupational careers. Contact us today to learn more.