Has the Role of Medical Office Assistants Changed During the Pandemic?

Medical Office Assistants have always played a basic role as frontliners in their communities, as the first person to meet patients when they arrive at their appointments. They can be found in different settings like mental health facilities, research hospitals, or doctor’s offices, which is why their roles are usually in high demand.

However, in the pandemic context, the usual scheduling, cleaning, and even taking vitals takes longer with the added precautions that comes with working while keeping everybody healthy. The usual duties have evolved to act like gatekeepers of the office, which makes them more dependable and better prepared than ever.

Here are some of the tasks that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in their workplaces:

Triaging Phone Calls

A medical assistant has the training to recognize which symptoms need immediate attention, especially during a public health emergency. “When calls come in, a medical assistant sends inquiries to the appropriate providers, tagging those that seem urgent. Taking accurate notes and streamlining information improves response time. In a pandemic, there’s not a minute to waste”, states an article by the Hunter Business School.

Especially during a public health crisis, the amount of patients looking to get primary care can be overcoming, as the amount of phone calls and emails can be a lot to handle, and is medical office assistants who need to talk to these patients and be able to guide them, and pay attention to the symptoms they are describing.


“When calls come in, a medical assistant sends inquiries to the appropriate providers, tagging those that seem urgent. Taking accurate notes and streamlining information improves response time. In a pandemic, there’s not a minute to waste”

The Hunter Business School

Screening Patients and Visitors

“Have you traveled outside of Canada in the last 15 days? Are you experiencing cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, a runny nose, fever or cough? Have you been in contact with anybody who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 15 days? Are you currently waiting for COVID-19 test results?”. These are some of the questions that can be encountered when visiting your family doctor, or any medical setting, as medical assistants now have to screen patients and visitors before allowing them in or coming in contact with anybody from the staff.

Sometimes, the questionnaire can be done over the phone, pen and paper or through an app before arriving, but in any case, assistants are the ones who have to make sure to receive it, record it, and make it as accurate as possible.

Sanitize Reception Area

Assistants now also have to make sure that everybody coming is wearing a mask and sanitizes their hands as soon as they come in, to avoid exposure to the highly contagious disease. “Carrying out disease prevention initiatives, such as distributing masks to visitors, making sure visitors all agree to a policy that dictates social distancing, and modifying the lobby to keep visitors far enough apart while they’re waiting”, explained the Academy of Learning.

Maintaining the entrance area clean has always been a priority, but in the midst of a public health emergency, it turns into an essential work. Other medical offices also make sure that other patients don’t sit on used chairs, before sanitizing all the chairs that have been used, and they have developed a system to keep track of these, like a sign that can be placed on top with a red background, that way anybody can see it, and assistants won’t miss it.

Another practice that has increased is scheduling appointments in a way that patients don’t have to wait together, or be in the same space for a very long time, to decrease the exchange of air between too many bodies.

Keeping Records

Professionals now have to maintain records in compliance with local health regulations, for example, tracking each visitor to keep a record of every person that comes in, or how many people are in the workplace at a time, to guarantee social distance in the workplace. Keeping these records has also allowed offices to reach people in case they were in contact with someone who tested positive.

On the other hand, extra detail needs to be ensured when submitting insurance claims and patients records, since the amount of both documents will increase during a pandemic, and the information stated in these, will be used for the patient’s health and for public health purposes.

How can you become a Medical Office Assistant?

If you want to serve your community and be part of the solution during a public health emergency, and onwards, become a Medical Office Assistant by registering at the ERP College program. We offer a blended course, with a flexible schedule that will adapt to your daily routine while earning a Diploma.

After completing the program you will be able to perform as a unit clerk, medical record specialist, doing electronic transcriptions, and finally as a medical office assistant. Contact one of our Admissions Counsellor today.





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