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How to Become a Medical Office Assistant in Canada

Are you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare but prefer working in an administrative role?

Becoming a medical office assistant (MOA) might be the perfect path for you! This rewarding career combines healthcare knowledge with essential administrative skills, making it an excellent choice for those who want to contribute to the medical field without becoming a practitioner.

Below, we’ll explore the skills, educational requirements, and expectations for becoming a medical office assistant in Canada.

What is a Medical Office Assistant?

A medical office assistant, also known as a medical administrative assistant or healthcare office administrator, plays an important role in keeping medical practices running smoothly. They work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, private practices, and specialized medical facilities, and are responsible for executing administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, managing patient records, and handling billing and insurance matters.

This role can’t be understated, as medical office assistants are often patients’ first and last point of contact. In this way, they’re the pivotal bookends of a positive healthcare experience.

5 Steps to Become a Medical Office Assistant in Canada

With the proper education, skills, and dedication, becoming a medical office assistant is more than possible. Five steps is all it takes to begin a truly rewarding medical administration career!

1. Complete High School

The first step in becoming a medical office assistant is to have a high school education or obtain an equivalent qualification. This foundation is essential for pursuing higher education in the medical field.

2. Enroll in a Medical Office Assistant Course

Completing a medical office assistant program is key to gaining the necessary skills and knowledge. These programs, which often take the form of a diploma or an assistant certificate, are offered by various institutions across Canada, including community colleges, vocational schools, and specialized career colleges.

A typical medical office assistant course covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Medical terminology
  • Basic knowledge of clinical procedures
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical office procedures
  • Electronic health records management
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Healthcare ethics and confidentiality
  • Communication skills for medical professionals

While the duration of these programs can vary from school to school, most can be completed within 6 to 12 months of full-time study. However, this should always be checked before applying to any program to ensure it’s the right fit.

3. Gain Practical Experience

Many medical office assistant programs include a practicum placement or internship component, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in a real healthcare setting. If they don’t, it’s important to check out career services (either on campus or through your community offerings) to see how else experience can be accrued.

This practical experience is invaluable for developing practical skills and building professional connections.

4. Consider Additional Certification

Depending on the program, students may receive (or have the option to receive) a certification upon graduation. However, this isn’t always the case.

While certification isn’t always mandatory, obtaining a recognized credential can enhance employability and demonstrate commitment to the profession.

In Canada, certification can be pursued through organizations such as the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) or the Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA)

5. Start Your Job Search

Upon completing a post-secondary MAO program and gaining practical experience, all that’s left is the job search.

Look for entry-level employment opportunities in various medical settings, and don’t be afraid to network with allied health professionals.

Lastly, be mindful that most medical offices require a criminal record check as part of their terms of employment. This is standard practice and will usually precede the start of any medical administration position.

Medical Office Assistant (MOA) Diploma

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Medical Office Procedures: What to Expect on the Job

A medical office assistant is responsible for a wide range of tasks that keep the office running smoothly. Some of the key medical office procedures that must be mastered include the following.

Patient Registration and Scheduling

One of an MOA’s primary responsibilities will be managing patient appointments and registering new patients. This involves:

  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Updating patient information
  • Managing the waiting list
  • Handling cancellations and rescheduling

Medical Records Management

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date patient records is critical to a medical office assistant’s role. This includes:

  • Creating and updating electronic health records
  • Ensuring patient confidentiality and compliance with privacy regulations
  • Filing and retrieving medical documents
  • Preparing charts for patient visits

Medical Billing and Insurance Processing

Understanding medical billing procedures is a crucial skill for medical office assistants. Responsibilities in this area may include:

  • Verifying patient insurance coverage
  • Submitting claims to insurance companies
  • Following up on unpaid claims
  • Explaining billing procedures to patients
  • Processing payments and managing accounts receivable

Communication and Correspondence

As the first point of contact for patients, medical office assistants need excellent communication skills to handle various interactions, including:

  • Answering phone calls and responding to patient inquiries
  • Providing more information to patients about clinical procedures
  • Greeting patients and visitors
  • Liaising between patients and healthcare providers
  • Preparing and sending correspondence, such as referral letters or test results

Office Management and Administration

General office management tasks are also part of a medical office assistant’s responsibilities. These may include:

  • Ordering and maintaining office supplies
  • Managing incoming and outgoing mail
  • Coordinating staff schedules
  • Assisting with basic bookkeeping tasks

Medical Transcription

Some healthcare office assistant positions may require medical transcription skills. This involves:

  • Transcribing dictated notes from healthcare providers
  • Proofreading and editing medical documents
  • Using the correct medical terminology in the proper contexts
  • Ensuring accuracy and completeness of transcribed materials

Skills Required for a Medical Office Assistant

To excel in this field, prospective MOAs need a combination of technical knowledge and soft skills. This administrative medical knowledge and understanding comes from combining higher education with practical workplace experience. Some of the key abilities include:

  • Communication Skills. This includes active listening, explaining medical procedures or policies in layman’s terms, and conveying information accurately between patients and healthcare providers.
  • Customer Service. Patients are often anxious or stressed when visiting a medical office. A friendly, patient, and empathetic demeanour can help put them at ease and ensure a positive experience.
  • Attention to Detail. In a medical setting, even minor errors can have significant consequences. It’s important to be meticulous when handling patient records, scheduling appointments, and processing medical billing.
  • Organization and Problem Solving. Strong organizational skills are crucial for managing patient files, coordinating schedules, and running the office smoothly. Thinking critically and finding solutions quickly is also valuable in maintaining smooth office operations.
  • Basic Medical Knowledge. While MOAs won’t diagnose patients, a foundational understanding of medical concepts, terminology, anatomy, and common procedures will help them communicate more effectively with patients and healthcare providers.
  • Computer Literacy. Most medical offices use electronic health record (EHR) systems and specialized software for scheduling and billing. Proficiency in these systems, as well as general computer skills, is crucial for success in this role.
  • Multitasking. On any given day, MOAs might be answering phones, scheduling appointments, filing records, and assisting patients simultaneously. The ability to juggle multiple tasks efficiently is important, and adaptability is crucial for long-term success in this field.
  • Discretion and Confidentiality. Medical information is highly sensitive. Prospective medical office assistants must be able to maintain strict confidentiality in accordance with federal and provincial privacy laws and ethical standards.
  • Time management. This includes effectively scheduling appointments, managing wait times, and completing all daily tasks.
  • Stress Management. Medical environments can be high-pressure at times. The ability to remain calm under stress and to manage patient reactions is crucial for maintaining professionalism and efficiency.
  • Teamwork. MOAs work closely with healthcare providers, other administrative staff, and various departments. Strong teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate effectively are essential.

Career Opportunities and Growth

The healthcare industry in Canada is growing, and so is the demand for those in medical office administration. 

The overall outlook for medical administrative assistants is positive, with over 41,100 new jobs expected through 2032 and an average median salary of $45,823

With experience, MOAs may have opportunities to advance to supervisory or management positions ($52,650 yearly) within medical offices or healthcare facilities. Some medical office assistants also choose to specialize in areas such as medical coding ($54,070 yearly), healthcare information management ($76,552 yearly), or medical transcription ($45,240 yearly).

Continuing education and staying up-to-date with advancements in healthcare technology and regulations can help an administration professional progress in their career and open up new opportunities.

Choose Career City College for Your MOA Diploma!

If you’re ready to take the first step towards becoming a medical office assistant, the Medical Office Assistant Diploma program at Career City College can get you started.

Our comprehensive program is designed to provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in this rewarding field. With flexible class schedules, 100% virtual learning, and plenty of academic support, we make it easier for you to balance your education with your other commitments.

Learn more about our Medical Office Assistant Diploma by visiting our program page!