Online medical office administration programs can prepare students to become hospital unit secretaries. These programs are common and typically lead to certificates, diplomas or associate degrees. Though most of these programs can be completed online, work experiences or externships are usually required. Important prerequisites for these programs include a high school diploma or GED.
Unit Secretary and Medical Office Administration Certificate Programs
A variety of certificate and diploma programs are available for those aspiring to work as secretaries in a fast-paced hospital unit or medical office. Applicants must be at least age 18 and possess a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Students gain general clerical and computer skills in addition to learning about patient care and the upkeep of medical reports and charts.
Information and Requirements
A certificate or diploma in medical office administration can be obtained in one year. Coursework may be completed through distance learning, although a 1- or 2-month clinical internship in a medical office or nursing unit is often required.
Coursework provides an overview of secretarial procedures pertinent to healthcare, from administering patients to adhering to privacy regulations. Students learn basic medical terms and how to understand medical coding for insurance and billing purposes.
Distance learners are introduced to the range of medical insurance coverage currently available to patients and the process for filing claims. Students learn the medical billing codes for various procedures.
Maintaining digital and hard-copy patient charts and files is an essential task of a healthcare secretary. The course emphasizes federal privacy regulations, which make the secure storage of patient medical and financial records a priority.
Students learn basic medical terms in order to properly transcribe doctor's orders and understand medical coding. They are introduced to medical procedures of diagnosis and treatment.
Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration
For those interested in beginning an administrative career in a hospital unit or medical office, an associate degree in medical office management can be pursued online. Distance-learning programs are common and qualify graduates to take national certification exams. Students learn the organizational techniques to maintain patient medical and billing records. They also acquire valuable communication skills to greet patients and families, schedule appointments and assist the healthcare team.
Information and Requirements
Students can complete an associate degree in two years. Online classes are typically asynchronous, meaning that students do not have to log on at a particular time, although class assignments and online exams may have deadlines. At the completion of online coursework, students are required to gain hands-on experience through an internship.
Core communication, computer and math courses provide skills necessary for effective office management and record-keeping. Major courses in anatomy, disease, medicine and medical administration prepare students for office careers in the healthcare industry.
Legal and ethical concerns strongly influence healthcare practice. Students gain an appreciation of regulations governing liability and patient consent as it relates to their professional roles.
Distance learners study the symptoms and diagnosis of common diseases. Students also learn about treatments and pharmaceutical remedies.
Medical Information Systems
Increasingly, patient records are being stored digitally. Students are introduced to databases and software commonly used by healthcare professionals.
Graduates of certificate programs are prepared for entry-level positions as secretaries in hospital units or clerks in medical offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), average salaries for medical secretaries were $34,330 in 2015.
An associate degree in medical office management prepares graduates for administrative jobs in hospitals, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical businesses and doctors' and dentists' offices. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that job opportunities for all types of secretaries would increase by 3% between 2014-2024, though the growth of medical secretary jobs was expected to be much faster than that due to the expanding healthcare industry (www.bls.gov).
Certification and Continuing Education Information
Graduates of hospital unit secretary and medical office administration training programs might want to consider obtaining voluntary certification to enhance their credentials. The National Association of Health Unit Coordinators offers a certified health unit coordinator (CHUC) designation, and the American Medical Technologists organization awards the medical administrative specialist designation. Both of these certifications require applicants to pass an exam.
For those interested in professional development or advancement opportunities, bachelor's and master's degree programs in healthcare management are available online. These programs focus on building business management skills as they pertain to the healthcare industry.
When aspiring health unit secretaries pursue an online or partially online medical office administration degree, certificate or diploma they will learn about healthcare ethics, medical records and medical terminology. Graduates of these programs can seek certification once they meet the exam requirements.