How to Become a Medical Office Manager
Many individuals enter the field of medical office management because they like the idea of working in health care, but also of being in a management role involved with supervising other people and helping keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. This occupation requires a fine understanding of business principles, such as accounting and economics, but also of health care regulations, including new policies and laws. This may be the driving reason why a health care administration degree can be so pertinent.
These degrees, available at the undergraduate and graduate level, touch on a wide variety of skills important to becoming a medical office manager, also allowing graduates to sometimes pursue more niche occupational roles, such as clinical manager, health information manager, or assistant administrator, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You might even go on to become a nursing home administrator and oversee a variety of functions there. Health care is an industry that is expected to grow in upcoming years, due primarily to an aging Baby Boomer population. Along with that, strong job opportunities for medical office managers are also expected to occur, shows the BLS.
The BLS reports that a bachelor's degree in health administration is the typical way to enter the field. This usually comprises a four-year education, and can include classes such as accounting and budgeting, health information systems, human resources administration, law and ethics, and more. In some programs, students may be able to focus on training to be able to work at a particular type of site, such as a mental health facility, nursing home or hospital, according to the BLS. Others, still, go on to complete a master's degree, which can take two to three years, and typically requires supervised on-the-job experiences. Individuals are not just limited to master's education in health care administration. Some also pursue graduate-level learning in business administration, long-term care, public administration or public health.
How important is postsecondary education to working in the field? A survey done by O*Net OnLine shows that 52 percent of all medical and heath services managers had a bachelor's degree, 31 percent had a master's degree and 10 percent had a post-baccalaureate certificate, typically a four to seven course credential. Together, this shows that 93 percent of medical office managers had completed some level of college education.
After completing a degree, you may want to continue on to seek certification, which is available in several different areas. For health information management, you might consider pursuing Certified Medical Manager (CMM) certification or Health Information Technology Certified Manager (HITCM) available through the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM). As well, through the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), you can become certified as an assisted living administrator or nursing home administrator. State licensing is not usually needed to work in medical and health services management, unless you plan to become a nursing care facility administrator. Then, licensing is required, but those requirements will vary by state, reports the BLS.
Necessary Skills and Qualities
There are many skills important to becoming an effective medical office manager. Among these is the ability to be detail-oriented, which is particularly pertinent to scheduling and billing. Other essential traits of a medical office manager, according to the BLS, include:
- Problem-Solving Capabilities: Medical office managers should be able to solve issues related to staffing, finances, and health care delivery. Being able to work under pressure, but to also see issues in advance can be important to these professionals.
- Strong Communication Skills: Managers must be able to work with all members of their health care teams be they physicians, nurses, lab technicians or other health care workers.
- Technical Understanding: Use of electronic medical records (EMRs) are now mandated at any facility that receives Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement. Knowing how to access these EMRs and how to use their offerings effectively is important for medical office managers.
Working Environment for Medical Office Managers
More than 315,000 individuals were employed as medical office and health care managers in the U.S. as of 2012, according to the latest data available from the BLS. State, local and private hospitals employed 39 percent of these professionals, while ambulatory health care services, which refers to outpatient care, accounts for about 26 percent of employment. Another 11 percent are employed at nursing and residential care facilities, while 8 percent work for the government, the BLS reports.
Most medical office managers work full-time and may even need to work during the night or on weekends, a fact that may be particularly true at hospitals or other types of health care facilities that are open around the clock. They may also need to have a presence at several different facilities, as some medical office managers oversee multiple sites, reports the BLS.
- Federal Mandates for Healthcare: Digital Record-Keeping Will Be Required of Public and Private Healthcare Providers, University of South Florida, Feb. 8, 2013, http://www.usfhealthonline.com/news/healthcare/electronic-medical-records-mandate/#.VVOFKRd4hRk
- Medical and Health Service Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Summary Report for Medical and Health Service Managers, O*Net OnLine, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00#JobZone
- The Education Issue: Post-baccalaureate certificate, an alternative to a master's degree, The Washington Post, Feb. 16, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/the-education-issue-post-baccalaureate-certificate-an-alternative-to-a-masters-degree/2012/02/02/gIQA6ZPvHR_story.html