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Learning Center Experience
By Michael Mileski, DC, MPH, MHA, MSHEd, LNFA
As a medical assistant, you may be wondering exactly
what your value is in the workforce. If you have completed any clinical time,
you might even be wondering how you are of value to the office in which you
have provided care.
Quite simply, your value is high, and it will continue to
get higher as we go through the next 20 or so years. Consider what is coming—the
aging of the baby boomer generation—and what part you are about to play in
caring for the largest generational population ever.
This population includes patients who were born
between 1946 and 1964, and next year brings the 70th birthday of the oldest of
the generation. It is important that medical assistants understand exactly what
this means, and how much of an impact this population will have upon the
environment in which you work.
The average life expectancy in the United States is
79.56 years (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015). Current research shows us that
most health care expenditures occur in the last 3 years of life (National
Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, 2012). As you can surmise, we
are about to see a great influx of patients into the offices of physicians,
clinics, and hospitals. Certainly, those numbers will be small to begin with; however,
it is estimated that we will be lacking approximately 1.6 million direct care
workers as we move into this timeframe (Barr, 2014). In addition, much of the
current workforce of caregivers is about to go into retirement, as they
themselves are baby boomers. This means we will not only need to provide more
care per caregiver, but we will need to do it in a much smarter fashion.
Today’s medical assistant is in a very interesting
position when it comes to the part they will play in upcoming years in the
provision of care. Considering the statistics mentioned, your role will become
more and more important as we see increased numbers of baby boomers pouring
into our offices, many of which are already stretched to the limits of patient
visits. The part you play will begin to increase with our upcoming patient
It is conceivable that you will see your role begin
to change over the next several years, and you need to begin to prepare for
that transition now. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to your
education. The more you understand, the more you will be able to do in the
environment in which you provide care, and the more opportunities will come
your way for doing so.
As we begin to visualize this transition in our care
population, you will begin to see changes in what you need to be doing. However,
it is important to keep in mind that there are still unfair perceptions out
there regarding what you can bring to the healthcare team, and it becomes your
responsibility to prove those perceptions about medical assistants wrong
(Hinton, 2009). In fact, there is research to show that many of these negative
perceptions of the medical assistant by other health care team members are
often due to miscommunication.
In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changing.”
This should ring true to each of you beginning your career. You are poised to
enter the medical field at one of the most important times in the history of
medicine. Your patients will need more from you, want more from you, expect
more from you, and require more from you on a daily basis. You are poised to be
the drivers behind many new programs that are being rolled out into medical
practices today as a result of changes we have seen with the Affordable Care
Act. Patient satisfaction is key for our success today. The baby boomers are
going to change the landscape of the medical offices you are currently used to.
They are going to change them for not only the better, but also to more closely
meet their own expectations.
With changing expectations comes a change in what we
do. You may not only be checking in patients, providing care, doing simple
medical procedures, or what you are accustomed to today. We are seeing a quick
paradigm shift in which the value of the medical assistant’s role in the office
is increasing. A study by Ferrer, Mody-Bailey, Jaén, Gott, and Araujo (2009)
showed great value in medical assistants being the main drivers behind certain
programs to increase compliance and health in the population. Furthermore, in
other countries, the significance of what the medical assistant can bring to
the table is becoming more fully realized. According to Chowdhury, Thompson,
Ali, Alam, Yunus, and Streatfield (2010), a well-trained medical assistant
could substitute for a physician in certain circumstances. Until then however,
always be certain to operate within your scope of practice.
You are nearing the
advent of a new day in health care. Each day we move forward, the value that
you bring to your field will continue to grow. However, you must remember that
you need to grow with it. Keep your focus on improving your skills, your
knowledge, and your abilities. It has always been about positioning yourself
for the future, and that becomes even more important today and as you move
forward. Your increased competence and abilities in customer service will serve
as your guide as we reach this new crossroads in caring.
Michael Mileski is a professor at Kaplan University.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not
represent the view of Kaplan University.
Electronic Medical Records and the Future
The Big Data Evolution in Health Care
Barr, P. (2014). The boomer challenge. Hospitals
& Health Networks. Retrieved from
Central Intelligence Agency. (2015). Life expectancy
at birth. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html.
Chowdhury, H. R., Thompson, S. C., Ali, M., Alam,
N., Yunus, M., & Streatfield, P. K. (2010). A comparison of physicians and
medical assistants in interpreting verbal autopsy interviews for allocating
cause of neonatal death in Matlab, Bangladesh: can medical assistants be
considered an alternative to physicians? Population Health Metrics, 823-30.
Ferrer, R. L., Mody-Bailey, P., Jaén, C. R., Gott,
S., & Araujo, S. (2009). A medical assistant–based program to promote
healthy behaviors in primary care. The Annals of Family Medicine, 7(6),
Hinton, D. (2009). Networking Forum Sheds Insight
into MA Views and Work Experiences. Dermatology Nursing, 21(6),
Martinez, M., Bigney, J., & Jernigan, J. (2014).
A Feedback Tool to Improve Physician-Medical Assistant Communication. Family
Practice Management, 215-9. doi:10.1016/S1069-5648(14)60030-7.
National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.
(2012). The concentration of health care spending. Retrieved from
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