Expanding Roles & Expanding Opportunities for Medical Assistants

Graduates of medical assistant schools in NJ and elsewhere are seeing their role in the healthcare continuum expand, which brings with it greater opportunities in a reimagined team-based view of healthcare. Many leaders in healthcare are seeing that medical assistants have far more to offer than their traditional role within physician offices, ambulatory care centers, outpatient surgical centers and radiology clinics.

For example, a recent article in Health Affairs—a leading health policy journal—spotlighted the Medical Assistant Champions program being undertaken in the Pittsburgh area. The article by Dr. Karen Wolk Feinstein (President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation) explains how the program prepares medical assistants to take on more tasks typically delegated to providers.

This includes patient outreach, patient education, self-management support, and tracking of referrals to specialists and other resources outside of the primary care practitioner’s office. The scope of services includes areas such as diagnostic testing, physical therapy, smoking cessation programs, and others.

These and other projects show how the possibilities for those undertaking medical assistant training in NJ can look forward to expanded possibilities across the healthcare continuum. This growing perspective sees healthcare teams utilizing the multidimensional skill sets of its members to a much fuller extent, which means an even more important role being played by medical assistants.

This type of thinking is reflected in another recent webinar spotlighted in the California Healthcare Foundation’s Improvement Network. The webinar discusses how the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Center for Health Professions studied how 14 health care organizations approached expanding the roles of MAs to provide career enhancement opportunities while improving patient outcomes and organizational efficiency.

Along the same lines, a recent article in the Brookings Institute Educational blog forum took a look at the expanding role of medical assistants as part of a team-based care approach. The blog post provides a number of case studies where healthcare organizations are successfully expanding the role of medical assistants in states around the country.

The takeaway from these and other programs across the country is that the graduates of medical assistant schools in NJ as well as around the country are being recognized as indispensable front line workers in healthcare. As changing factors such as an aging population, increased access to healthcare, and shortages of primary care workers take hold, organizations are looking at expanding the traditional role of medical assistants (MAs).

In addition to the roles discussed previously, others include health coaches, panel managers, pharmacy technician, interpreter, and referral coordinator among others. While the scope of these services in terms of which can be legally provided by MA’s is being defined legislatively and organizationally around the country, all roads point to much broader possibilities for medical assistants.