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Medical Office Support - Overview


Medical office support programs prepare people to work in medical offices. Students learn how to use computers and software. They also learn how to keep medical records and process information.

When you see the doctors on "E.R." struggling to save patients' lives, one thing you don't see is the amount of medical information the doctors and their patients generate. There is personal information about the patient - name, address, insurer. There is information about the patient's medical history and current condition. What the doctor did. What drugs were prescribed. Whether the patient was sent home, to a hospital room, or to the hereafter. All of these records are kept electronically, so trained technicians are needed to maintain the computer systems and specialized software that keeps these records.

And information technology in medical offices keeps track of more than just medical records. It bills patients. It maintains a calendar of appointments and staff availability. It keeps track of the electric and heating bills. It may handle the payroll of the staff. So most medical offices need someone who can support the business information systems.

If you want to fill that role, you are unlikely to find a tailor-made training program. But if a college in your area trains medical secretaries, receptionists, or assistants, you can learn some of the skills you will need from that program. And you should be able to find courses, and maybe a training program, in office computer technology. Thus you can put together a training program that will prepare you for this kind of work. One or two years of full-time study beyond high school should be sufficient. Or perhaps you can learn through some combination of on-the-job training and academic work. Furthermore, another option is a Job Corps training program, which takes about two months.

You need to study medical terminology so that you will understand what is going on in a medical setting. For the same reason, you need to study the structures and functions of the human body and learn about various diseases and disorders. You also need to study the laws that govern medical practice. You can probably learn about many medical office procedures on the job. However, the best way to learn about using coding schemes when you bill HMOs is through formal course work.

If you have a special aptitude for computer technology, you may be able to teach yourself some of what you need to know. But course work in office systems technology is probably the best place to learn. You need to study how to set up computers and deal with routine network problems. You should learn how to install software and run common programs such as word processors, spreadsheets, and databases. You also need to learn the special systems that are used in medical offices for storing patient records and handling the billing. A training program for medical secretaries is likely to offer course work on those systems.

The specifics for medical reception programs are a bit different. These programs normally take one year of full-time study beyond high school and results in a certificate. Only a tiny number of colleges and propriety schools offer such programs. But if a college in your area trains medical assistants, you can learn the skills you will need from that program. Just take the courses that are relevant to reception. Most likely these will be keyboarding and word processing skills, medical terminology, and working with insurance. You also study the computer software packages that are used in office management.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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