Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional norms on how to safely provide services to the public have been challenged. Medical offices are no exception to this trend, with many health care practitioners now providing virtual care options to their patients.
Many clinics have also been reducing the number of staff who are physically present in the office. But is it possible for a clinic to operate smoothly if some or all of the admin staff are working remotely? The answer is yes!
Ruth Holland Richardson has been a medical administrative assistant for more than 30 years, gaining experience at a number of offices in different countries. She explains how a virtual assistant with a background as a medical administrative assistant can help increase clinic efficiency while delivering exceptional patient care.
According to Ruth, there are three ways a virtual assistant can greatly benefit a medical office:
Establishing a positive rapport with patients and their families is also part of the dynamic. It may seem challenging to manage this virtually, but Ruth explains that most of her communications with other clinic team members haven’t changed at all since shifting to work as a virtual medical assistant.
“Dealing with different departments is done via email, telephone and fax in a medical office, so it’s no different doing this as a virtual assistant.”
With many regions facing labour shortages, some clinics might be tempted to hire a local assistant with no formal training in the medical field hoping to train them on the job. This can present challenges, however. Ruth explains that it’s not easy to dive into a medical office with no previous experience.
“Medical office assistants are actually quite specialized. A strong working knowledge of medical and laboratory medicine terminology is extremely important skills. These skills are vital to prioritize appointments, and to know when to contact the doctor if something is urgent. Also, medical office assistants typically do healthcare billing, which requires knowing the proper medical terms to find appropriate billing codes,” Ruth says.
She goes on to provide examples of where her background has come in handy: “I’ve had on several occasions to call the physician on their cell to advise of an urgent situation, rather than emailing or using the message system. Without a healthcare background, I wouldn’t have the knowledge to deal with that.”
Given the above, it’s clear there are many benefits to hiring a virtual assistant with a medical background over a live assistant with no medical assistant experience.
If there is one thing that separates medical administrative assistants from other customer service professionals, it's the need to establish deeper relationships with patients. Someone may have strong attention to detail and be very organized, but without that ability to connect with other people, it’s more than likely that they’ll struggle.
In Ruth’s experience, there’s a clear difference between the type of customer care (or patient care) that’s provided in medicine compared to other fields: “I would say that the major difference is the need to have and demonstrate caring and empathy for patients.”
Doctors and clients working in the medical field are not just looking for productive, time-saving assistants, but also decent human beings. “Empathy, kindness, efficiency, ability to work with all kinds of people and that background in medical knowledge are key,” Ruth says.
Ruth is pleased and humbled by the positive feedback she has received from her clients. “I have been consistently told that the patients loved dealing with me, that I was always helpful and efficient, caring and empathetic.”
An experienced service-oriented medical assistant can have an immediate positive impact on patient retention and clinic reputation, even translating to positive online reviews.
Overall, Ruth feels like the transition from working in person to providing virtual assistance has been a productive endeavour. “Having had a long career in the healthcare sector, I initially thought the remote model would be a little odd for a doctor’s office. But after 10 months of doing this work, I’ve decided that it’s actually a really good model, as long as you are consistent, highly organized, and have that background in health care.”
If you’re interested in working with someone with a background in medical office administration like Ruth, just start a chat, book a discovery call or call us directly at +1-888-504-4449, and our team will match you with an experienced medical VA.