A health care career with regular hours?


Explore careers in medical assisting, medical billing/coding, and medical office support

Are you interested in health care? Realize your full potential with a medical office career. With the number of health care procedures increasing as the population ages, there is a very high demand for skilled specialists in patient information technology, medical assisting, coding, billing, and medical office support.

More and more, medical front office careers are becoming an important contribution to the delivery of quality care, and these integral roles are projected to remain in high demand in the coming decades.

So, what's the scoop?

Basically, the health care office environment is divided into two distinct areas:

  1. "Front office" personnel work with patient records, insurance billing, computerized accounting, patient databases, transcription of dictated notes, and applying standardized codes to patient records among other activities.
  2. "Back office" personnel are the care providers, including physicians, nursing personnel, and a variety of assistant titles.

Medical assisting is a versatile, in-demand health care career where you interact with patients and positively affect the lives of other people. Medical assisting is a stepping stone to many other health care professions.

On the other hand, medical billers and coders are investigators, hunting down patients' diagnoses based on lab procedures, signs, and symptoms. Medical billing and coding technology is evolving at such a rapid rate that specialists now more than ever need excellent training.

Medical office personnel perform medical secretarial procedures, medical terminology, coding and billing, word processing, and medical machine transcription.

San Jacinto College offers an array of programs to prepare you for a medical office career.

"These are great careers. The demand for trained medical office support is growing. These jobs usually offer regular hours — something that is rare in the health care field," said Carla Ruffins, program director for health information management.

What does a medical assistant do?

The main role of a medical assistant is to keep the medical office running smoothly by performing clinical and administrative tasks. The specific duties vary depending on the location and the size of office.

Some administrative duties may include handling correspondence, greeting patients, and filling out their medical records, as well as scheduling appointments and referring. Clinical duties can include preparing an examination room with the proper supplies, taking a patient's medical history, and minor medical tasks such as suturing and drawing blood.

Skills, learning, and employment opportunities:

Most employers are interested in seeing medical assistant training on your resume, and strong organizational skills are needed. San Jac's medical assistant program prepares you to take a certifying exam at the program's completion. While certification is not required for medical assistants, it will boost your chances for employment if you are formally prepared.

In San Jac's program, topics you will study include anatomy, human physiology, record keeping, medical terminology, and administrative and accounting skills. You will also learn about laboratory techniques, diagnostic procedures, and how to administer medications.

With appropriate training, there is greater opportunity in finding employment in a physician's office or hospital, clinical laboratories, nursing homes, and in the offices of other health practitioners such as chiropractors and podiatrists. In larger offices, there may be opportunities for advancement into administrative management positions as well.

Medical assistants in the Gulf Coast area can earn a median salary of $31,374 annually, and the statewide employment rate in the field is projected to grow by 36% over the next seven years, according to Texas Wages and Employment Projections.

What do medical coders and billers do?

Procedurally, the primary role of a medical coder is to ensure accurate documentation of a patient's diagnosis, prescription, or referral. Medical coding regulates the proper use of medical procedures and potentially protects patients from prescription conflicts. This is a critical responsibility in health care as a patient's medical history is important for consistent ongoing health care.

Furthermore, proper medical coding procedures have the added purpose of ensuring correct patient billing and payment.

Skills, learning, and employment opportunities:

Medical coders must be detailed-oriented, have the ability to work well with numbers, and be comfortable working with computers and various types of medical coding and billing software programs. Although much of the job entails administrative tasks such as reviewing, processing, and submitting medical claims, some interpersonal skills are also necessary.

Medical coders may be required to obtain additional information from a physician or other medical provider in the office,or may need to contact insurance companies regarding questions about claims.

San Jacinto College's Associate of Applied Science in health information management and certificate programs in medical billing and coding will help you to gain a full understanding of medical records and its importance within any health care system. Correct interpretation of a physician's notes is obviously critical to your patient's well-being. Therefore, learning will include knowledge in the subjects of CPT coding, ICD-10 CM/PCS coding, anatomy, medical terminology, human physiology, and electronic health records.

From an employment perspective, medical coding positions are needed in every hospital, medical clinic, physician's office, nursing home, or health care agency. Insurance companies that work with health care cases may also hire someone with medical coding experience, either on a contract basis or as a full-time employee, if the business is large enough. In hospitals and large agencies where more than one person is required for medical coding, there may be potential for advancement into supervisory or management positions.

The average salary for health information technicians in Texas is $41,512. Texas billing and posting clerks average $36,692, and the employment rate in the field is projected to grow by 22% over the next 7 years, according to Texas Wages and Employment Projections.

Additionally, the national salary average for medical coding professionals is $54,730, according to the American Health Information Management Association.

What does a medical secretary do?

Medical secretaries provide administrative support in a medical office environment. A typical day for a medical secretary would include answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, greeting patients, completing insurance forms, helping patients complete intake forms, receiving laboratory results and routing them to appropriate staff, and maintaining medical files.

Skills, learning, and employment opportunities:

San Jac has a medical office support certificate program where students learn medical secretarial procedures, medical terminology, coding and billing, word processing, and medical machine transcription.

The average annual salary for medical secretaries in Texas is $33,057, and the employment rate in the field is projected to grow by 29% over the next seven years, according to Texas Wages and Employment Projections.