What are the most common types of certified medical assistants?

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Some types of certified medical assistants focus primarily on administrative responsibilities, while others are certified in clinical duties. The following are the most common types of certified medical assistants:

Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)

Certified medical administrative assistants play a very important role in managing the front desk operations of a physician’s office, hospital, or other medical facility. They make sure that the business side of the medical practice runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible, and causes minimal interruption to the working physician(s).

In larger facilities, these assistants work as part of a team, and are responsible for managing specific duties in a high-paced work environment. In smaller offices, certified medical administrative assistants may be the only ones attending the front desk, and are responsible for providing customer service, managing the phones, making appointments, checking in patients, maintaining patient records, filing insurance claims, inputting electronic medical coding, and performing general accounting and billing. It is also common for administrative assistants to schedule patient hospital admissions and laboratory tests.

Companies looking to hire new medical administrative assistants look very favourably on those who have earned some kind of certification. There are many formal programs that can prepare individuals to become certified medical administrative assistants - certification can be achieved in a traditional classroom setting or through one of the many online schools that are available. Regardless of the type of format chosen, it is very important to make sure the program is properly accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

The curriculum will be focused on learning office functions that mix medical processes and procedures with administrative assistant skills. Courses will cover subjects like medical terminology, medical ethics, human anatomy, human physiology, medical office insurance and billing procedures, accounting, computer applications, and pharmaceutical principles. Assistants must also stay up-to-date on all regulations and policies regarding the collection, storage, and circulation of sensitive patient data.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Certified medical assistants work in physician's offices, clinics, or other healthcare facilities, and are one of the most common types of medical assistants. These medical assistants are cross-trained so as to be able to carry out clinical, clerical, and administrative duties, and are responsible for helping a medical facility run smoothly by providing support for the working physician(s).

The daily tasks of a certified medical assistant are broad and can depend upon the type of medical facility and the particular job description. During the course of a typical day, certified medical assistants may answer telephones, schedule appointments, record medical information and test results, conduct patient interviews, prep exam rooms, take and record vital signs, collect specimens, prepare patients for X-rays, change wound dressings, explain treatment plans, arrange for laboratory tests, arrange for hospital admissions, and administer medication under a physician's supervision. Prepping exam rooms may include cleaning and sterilizing instruments, and disposing of contaminated items.

While individuals can work as medical assistants without being certified, becoming certified through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is preferred by employers. In order to be able to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant exam, one must complete a formal medical assisting program from a school that has received accreditation from either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Certification is good for five years - recertification can be obtained through examination or by earning continuing education credits.

Curriculum focuses on learning lab techniques, medical terminology, clinical procedures, medical office procedures, ethics, patient relations, medical law, insurance processing, accounting, and record-keeping procedures.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

Certified clinical medical assistants are medical support professionals that work closely with patients, nurses, and physicians to administer basic patient care. They are recognized as some of the most multifaceted and important members of any medical practice. While certified clinical medical assistants working in smaller offices may be asked to perform some administrative duties, those working in larger medical facilities focus mainly on providing patient care and being a support system for the working physician.

Certified clinical medical assistants are mostly found working by a physician’s side. Their responsibilities include: patient communication and history intake; conducting assessments, preparing patients for examinations, operations, or other procedures; assisting the physician during examinations; explaining next steps to a patient who is about to undergo a procedure; taking vital signs; performing minor treatments; instructing patients on home care; managing medical supply inventories; and ensuring that equipment, such as sterilized tools, EKG and EEG equipment are ready and available. Under the supervision of a physician, a certified clinical medical assistant may also clean and dress wounds, remove sutures, collect blood and other specimens, as well as administer medication.

Certification is available through both traditional classroom-based programs and online programs. It is important to check that the chosen program is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Clinical medical assistants who are certified earn a higher wage and find it easier to advance in their careers than those who don't. Curriculum will cover anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, ethics, medical law, billing, bookkeeping, and office management - and typically include a clinical practice component that provides real-world experience and offers an opportunity to practice what's learned in the classroom.

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