Medical Assistant Courses
You’ve seen by now that medical assistants take on a lot of responsibilities and need a large amount of knowledge to be prepared for all of them. Effective medical assistant training has to touch on the many differing tasks a medical assistant may face day-to-day, which is no small feat.
For an online medical assistant program to cover the most important knowledge areas, it must include classes that address the medical tasks assistants perform, as well as the administrative work common to the profession.
Featured Online Programs
Want to gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed as a medical assistant? Herzing University offers a comprehensive Associate of Applied Science degree program for students who plan to work in hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices.
Interested in a career as a medical assistant? Keiser University’s online associate degree in medical assisting introduces all of the job’s core responsibilities, from checking patient vital signs and taking x-ray exams to billing, coding and record-filing procedures.
Want to earn a bachelor’s degree in health information management? This online, fully accredited bachelor’s program from Kaplan University covers billing, coding, record keeping and other key areas of health information management.
Looking for an education introduction to the field of health information technology? Ultimate Medical Academy has you covered with this online associate degree program that can be completed within 17 months of full-time study.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
Any online medical assistant training program worth considering will offer courses in all of these main subjects.
Anatomy and physiology
This one’s standard for just about any medical profession. Before you can understand the kinds of health challenges and symptoms patients face, you have to understand the basics of how the human body works.
A good anatomy and physiology course will teach you to identify the main systems and body parts that drive how human bodies work, including:
- The skeletal system
- The muscular system
- The circulatory system
- The respiratory systems
- The reproductive system
- How cells work
- The main organs and their function
You get the idea. This course provides the building blocks of understanding human health that make it easier to process all the other medical knowledge you’ll learn as you go.
Most industries have their own language and the medical profession is no exception. This class will introduce you to the basic vocabulary used in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical settings. What you learn in this class is essential to be able to properly communicate with the doctors you work with and the patients they serve.
You don’t just need to know how the human body works; you also need to understand how the body’s systems interact with different types of drugs. This course addresses the effects various drugs have on each of the body’s systems, from the chemical level on up. It will also equip you with a better understanding of drug side effects and how medical professionals understand which drugs are safe for which patient.
Here’s where you start to get the hands-on experience that’s the most valuable part of your medical assistant training. This course lets you get a taste of the work you’ll do with patients, including performing physical examinations, venipuncture (inserting needles into veins), collecting specimens of biological substances, handling specimens for laboratory testing, and working with patients on physical therapy.
Clinical practice teaches you how to perform a lot of the basic medical tasks you’ll need to know, but also helps you learn the equally important skill of communicating effectively with patients about their conditions and treatments.
Paperwork may seem like one of the least interesting parts of the job, but it’s hugely important. Correct processing of patients’ payments is how a medical office keeps its doors open (and keeps paying employees like you).
This course addresses the types of documents you’re likely to encounter as a medical assistant and the main things you’ll need to know to process them correctly, such as:
- Legal documents like living wills and power-of-attorney documents
- Insurance paperwork
- Industry standards for assigning codes to diagnoses and medical procedures
- How to create invoices and track payments
- The basics of bill collection and following up with patients for overdue bills
Health and wellness may be the main goals of what medical professionals do, but doctors’ offices are still a business. What you learn in your medical billing course is what will keep the office working.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Most medical assistants will be expected to understand Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), which are covered in courses on Electronic Health Records (EHRs). If you’re thinking those sound like the same thing, they do. Here’s the difference: many EMRs are localized in a single office or hospital, but EHRs travel from provider to provider. This course will teach you how to create, update and otherwise maintain EHRs, and how to use industry-standard codes to ensure that a patient’s EHRs are valuable to any other hospital or office that accesses them.
Hands-On Medical Assistant Training
The medical assistant courses listed above are the essentials, but to really be valuable to employers you’ll benefit from seeking out medical assistant courses that incorporate some hands-on training. The more specialized that medical assistant training is, the more valuable you become.
Based on a review of what employers say they want in a medical assistant in their job postings, we recommend keeping an eye out for online medical assistant training in the following:
Almost all medical assistant jobs require some hands-on experience. You can get some of that experience in your courses or with an internship, but an externship can make a huge difference in setting yourself apart from other candidates.
An externship usually involves unpaid work at a hospital for somewhere between 300 to 2,000 hours. Yes, that’s a lot of time to work without pay, but externship experience is highly valued by the employers likely to pay the most. Making an externship a part of your medical assistant training will almost certainly help you land a better-paying position after graduation.
You won’t see this one offered in too many of the medical assistant programs you check out. It’s usually handled by x-ray technicians who’ve gone through their own specialized education track. That said, any program you find that does offer x-ray certification as an add-on is providing something worth taking advantage of. It’s an extra valuable bit of medical assistant training that provides a competitive advantage over other job candidates.
The majority of employers will want you to have hands-on experience in drawing blood from patients and analyzing blood samples. If your school offers this as an add-on course, you’ll significantly boost your hireability if you take the time to earn the certification. Many medical assistants gather and process blood samples on a daily basis, so this is the kind of practical knowledge that will come in handy in your daily work.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) tackled several of the key issues influencing the health industry. It was designed to:
- Crack down on health insurance fraud.
- Make it easier for patients to maintain health insurance when changing jobs.
- Bring greater efficiency and privacy to health insurance processing.
All medical assistants are required to follow the rules of HIPAA, so you’d do well to understand what those are. Displaying your knowledge of it in an interview will make a major impact on any employer. So even if your program doesn’t require a class on HIPAA, you should do as much to understand it as possible before you graduate.
Medical billing and coding
Employers want medical assistants who can start working with minimal on-the-job training. If you can jump in on day one and start working with an office’s billing system, you’re pretty much medical assistant gold.
Most medical assistant training programs cover the basics of medical billing, but you can boost your employability with some training in specific billing systems like eClinicalWorks, NEXT GEN and Epic. Most employers also appreciate a working knowledge of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-9) coding system, as well as the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set. Learning these coding systems requires a lot of rote memorization, but everything you learn will make you that much more impressive in a job interview.
CPR training with certification
Even if this isn’t a part of your official online medical assistant training program, it’s simple and inexpensive to get on your own. Organizations like the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer courses around the country on a regular basis, as well as online courses, for fees in the $100 range. Courses typically take less than a day to complete, and they’ll teach you skills that’ll make you extra-valuable to any medical employer.