According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for medical assistants will grow at 29 percent between 2012 and 2022 -- much faster than average. As demand for health care increases, medical assistants help doctors see more patients and operate their practices more efficiently. Professional standards dictate guidelines as to what medical assistants can and cannot do.
Administrative Medical Assistants -- What they Can Do
Administrative medical assistants concentrate on the management functions of the medical practice. They answer phones for the doctor and make appointments for patients. They also check-in patients as they arrive for appointments, and will make certain all insurance information, as well as other personal information, is up to date. The administrative medical assistant also may take care of billing both patients and insurance companies, and answer questions about practice policies and procedures.
Administrative Medical Assistants -- Prohibitions
A medical assistant working primarily in the administrative area is not able to administer medications under any circumstance. She cannot give medical advice, and does not assist the doctor during a medical examination. She does not prepare patients for examinations and does not collect lab specimens for analysis. She also does not change wound dressings. Generally, an administrative medical assistant does not perform any hands-on function with a patient.
Clinical Medical Assistants -- What they Can Do
A clinical medical assistant works more in the physician's examination room than in the front office. He will often bring patients to the examining room, taking height, weight, blood pressure, temperature and other vital signs as needed. He will begin the medical history for the doctor, asking questions about medications and symptoms. He can also assist the doctor during an examination. The clinical medical assistant can apply bandages and administer medications under a doctor's supervision.
Clinical Medical Assistants -- Prohibitions
A clinical medical assistant is not permitted to examine a patient or diagnose an illness or condition. He cannot prescribe medication for a patient and cannot order diagnostic testing. A clinical medical assistant cannot perform any medical procedure, no matter how minor, on a patient.
Medical assistants are often trained in both clinical and administrative areas and can carry out both functions. This is more common in a smaller practice, as larger practices have more medical assistants and rely on them to develop more specialized skills in one area or the other. An entire class of administrative medical assistants who concentrate solely on maintaining electronic medical records and patient portals or online patient access to medical records is emerging.