How Technology Is Changing the Role of Medical Assistants
Technology is becoming more integrated in the workplace, especially in healthcare. A catch-22, it helps increase productivity and makes workers’ lives easier. However, it also creates worry among students that the training they receive today may not be relevant in the future, will medical assistants be replaced by AI? In healthcare, technology is thankfully a pro and not a con. For medical assistants, it bolsters their role.
How Is Technology Changing Healthcare?
Technology is changing healthcare in profound ways. Examples include:
Electronic Health Records
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are revolutionizing the way patient information is accessed, shared, and stored. Data is instantaneously available to doctors from any location, drastically improving the speed and accuracy of care.
Telemedicine took the fear out of visiting a doctor during the pandemic. Today, it connects patients and specialists nationwide. Clients with mobility issues can now be seen in the comfort and safety of their homes. It’s convenient and resource friendly.
Once a novelty, wearable technology like fitness trackers and other health monitoring devices are helping patients take charge of their own well-being. Wearable tech is also making diagnostic testing easier. Holter monitoring, a type of portable EKG, is now commonplace. And technological breakthroughs in prosthetics are enhancing the quality of life for many.
Robotic surgery was first introduced in the 80s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it was widely adopted. Since then, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved robotic systems for use in a broad range of surgical procedures from prostatectomies to gallbladder removals.
Imaging technologies, such as CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans, have improved significantly with advances in technology. These non-invasive images of the human body allow doctors to diagnose and treat disorders without risky exploratory surgeries.
Software is the engine that drives most healthcare applications, from imaging to EHR systems. Upgrades have vastly improved the quality, speed and interconnectivity of both hardware and the programs that make them tick.
Genetic information is changing how a doctor approaches genetic-based disease. Early screening allows for the detection and treatment of certain disorders before they manifest irreversible symptoms. Therapies are more effective and less likely to cause dangerous side effects.
Advances in medicine are nearly all tech dependent. Powerful computers, for example, are making it possible to collect, store, and analyze larger amounts of medical data. Instead of waiting decades to understand the course of a disease or the efficacy of treatments, researchers can collate information faster. The result is the continual evolution of innovations.
Artificial intelligence algorithms analyze the data used to diagnose and treat disease, putting information at physicians’ fingertips. AI has the potential to transform healthcare by improving the accuracy and efficiency of care while bolstering research and streamlining administrative tasks.
How Is Technology Changing the Role of Medical Assistants?
Technology is changing the role of medical assistants by improving training, increasing efficiency, enhancing communication, and expanding the type of care in which they can participate. Examples include:
Training and Continuing Education
Vocational school medical assisting programs train quality graduates in less time through the use of technology. Laboratory equipment, such as phlebotomy simulators, reduces the burden on schools to find volunteers upon which students can practice clinical skills. Graduates are better prepared for their roles with less on-the-job experience.
Remote learning options have also increased accessibility to training for many students. And ongoing continuing education is just a mouse click away, making valuable certifications easier to obtain and maintain. Students do the work, but technology paves the road to greater success.
Technology is making diagnostic tests so much easier that some no longer require years of training to perform. The simpler and more foolproof a process is, the more likely it can be managed by unlicensed clinical staff.
Medical assistants can do EKGs, urine pregnancy screens, fetal heartbeat monitoring, pacemaker checks and many more tests that were once done only in hospitals. A win-win for both patients and providers, it’s a more convenient and resource-conscious approach to medicine.
Scheduling software allows medical assistants to manage appointments for multiple providers through one centralized system. You’ll know at a glance when staff, equipment and exam rooms are available. Appointments are simpler to schedule without double bookings that increase wait time. It improves productivity, revenue, and patient satisfaction.
Whether it’s communicating with patients or peers, technology simplifies the process. EHR, for example, allows medical assistants to message other members of the healthcare team so that everyone is on the same page.
Advancements, such as automated dialers and text applications, help manage mundane tasks such as verifying appointments. While mobile translation apps bridge the gap between providers and patients who don’t speak English.
Electronic Health Records
Record keeping is a significant part of a medical assistant’s responsibilities. A few short years ago, a medical assistant’s job could consist mostly of updating and filing records. It could take hours to find, copy and mail paper records for a referral.
Today, EHR relieves that burden, allowing medical assistants to do more meaningful things instead of busy work. You’ll spend more time interacting with patients than pushing paper.
Billing and Claims Management
Billing and claims management is largely automated, reducing the workload on office staff. Medical assistants can generate invoices, submit insurance claims, and track payments from a single portal.
Medical Coding Databases
Medical codes are alphanumeric sequences used to describe symptoms, diagnoses and treatments on health insurance claim forms. It used to be a tedious task. Now, medical assistants can use a searchable database of codes instead of pouring through heavy manuals.
Inventory Management Systems
Managing inventory is a breeze with automated tracking. As supplies are removed from the shelves, they’re automatically deducted from the inventory. Not only can you see what’s available with the push of a button, but as numbers drop, the computer lets you know it’s time to reorder. You’ll never run out of syringes before flu season again.
Patient Education Options
Technology offers a wealth of educational tools. Built into most practice management software is a database of health information. Medical assistants can use patient portals or mobile apps to share or print educational materials.
Tracking patient progress has also improved with upload features in EHR messaging systems. A patient who records their daily blood pressure, for example, can transmit data directly to their physician for review.
Workflow Management Technology
Practice management software is a computer program that integrates EHR, scheduling, inventory management, billing and more through a single interface, most doctor’s offices and clinics use it. However, the real benefit of practice management software for medical assistants is the time management tools. Say goodbye to arm-long to-do lists. The program prioritizes tasks for you.
It will, for example, flag overdue vaccinations in a patient’s chart. It also highlights insurance claims that were denied, making it easy to identify which require follow-up. Important messages from providers are marked as urgent, saving you the trouble of searching through a list to pinpoint priority tasks.
Client Outreach Applications
Practice management software allows medical assistants to access patient records and ensure that all necessary services are up to date. Every August, for example, you could run a report on which clients need flu shots.
Reaching out to clients with offers for preventive care helps generate revenue and improve overall health outcomes. It also helps providers connect with patients in an emergency, such as when there’s been a drug recall.
Will Technology Replace Medical Assistants in the Future?
Today’s students are right to be concerned about their educational investments. As more workers are displaced by technology, it’s prudent to assess the future of any field. Like most industries, healthcare will change.
However, as America’s demographics shift and preventive care becomes the rule and not the exception, more people and technology will be required to keep pace. It’s critical to recognize that AI is not a replacement for health professionals. Advances may change what medical assistants do, but no machine can replace compassion, empathy, and the human touch.
Millions of Baby Boomers are becoming greater healthcare consumers, the system is bursting at the seams. A secure career choice, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16 percent growth in the demand for medical assistants through 2031. You’ll use technology, but you won’t be replaced by it.
Want to Learn More?
Ohio Business College’s Medical Assisting training program will prepare you for a career as a medical assistant, capable of working in any medical office or facility. Our school’s caring instructors have real world experience and will teach you the necessary skills to succeed in the medical assisting profession over the course of our comprehensive training program. We have smaller class sizes than other schools, which gives you more access to personalized attention from our knowledgeable instructors. Plus, our hybrid model offers more convenience and flexibility.
If you are interested in a medical assistant profession, let Ohio Business College answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to learn more about our Medical Assistant program.