Many schools offer associate's degree programs in the medical field that can be completed through online study. Students can access video lectures and download course materials as their schedules permit, within certain time limits. While some programs have internship requirements, others incorporate hands-on training into the online curriculum.
These associate's degree programs require two years or a little less to complete, and may include general education courses such as mathematics, biology and English composition. Students should ensure that any program they are considering qualifies them to seek professional certification in their field.
Students can learn to convert a doctor's reports and notes into a document with an associate's degree program in medical transcription. Courses include medical terminology, communications and office procedures. An online practicum is included. An associate's degree program in medical assisting generally includes several online courses in patient care and office procedures, but usually calls for the student to visit campus for hands-on lab instruction. An externship in a medical office is required as well.
In an associate's degree program in medical office administration, students learn basic business office skills, such as keyboarding. They also study specific duties for a medical office, including medical billing and coding. On-campus lab experiences are usually required, in addition to an externship in a physician's office.
Associate's Degree in Medical Transcription
The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Medical Transcription program instructs students in how to convert a doctor's daily dictation notes and reports, which are usually recorded, into succinct and coherent electronic or paper documents. A wide variety of basic medical information is covered, as well as essential word processing, database management and proofreading skills.
Many programs can be completed in less than two years and offer online practicum experience as a medical transcriptionist. Graduates are also prepared to take the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity's (AHDI) Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) exam (www.ahdionline.org).
Program Information and Requirements
An AAS in Medical Transcription program typically consists of 60-66 credit hours and all coursework is presented entirely online with no campus visits required. Certain schools may require an internship at a hospital or other medical facility before graduation. The online components, such as required readings and coursework, are accessible from anywhere with Internet access and can be worked on at any time of day prior to assignment deadlines.
Common Medical Transcription Courses
The curriculum of an associate's degree program in medical transcription is made up of a combination of core, technical major, general education and elective courses. The general education credits include courses in areas such as communications, math and social sciences. The programs that offer medical transcription as a concentration may have major courses separate from the concentration requirements.
This course introduces students to the concepts of medical word building and terms used to discuss human body systems, clinical procedures and pathological conditions. Prefixes, suffixes, word roots and abbreviations commonly found in the medical vocabulary are analyzed.
Medical Office Procedures and Communications
Students are instructed in the assortment of tasks that they will confront in the medical office, such as the composition of medical office documents. The writing styles, grammar and mechanics essential to the medical transcriptionist are also covered. The course may also address skills and techniques for conducting an effective job search.
Human Disease Processes
Various diseases that attack the different human body systems are identified as well as methods for treating them. Topics studied include etiology, symptoms, complications, prognosis and prevention of specific illnesses and diseases. Students can also learn techniques for helping patients effectively manage pain.
Associate's Degree in Medical Assisting
The Associate of Science (A.S.) in Medical Assisting degree programs prepares prospective medical assistants for providing aid to physicians and nurses. Students can also learn many administrative and clinical duties, including updating patient records, arranging patient hospital visits, taking vital signs, giving injections and administering medications. This online program also provides instruction in the relevant science and business aspects of the medical field.
Program Information and Requirements
Completion of 60-66 credit hours is required for graduation from the associate's degree program. Although most courses are offered online, certain schools require students to come to campus to complete laboratory requirements that provide hands-on training in certain administrative and clinical skills.
Additionally, most schools require students to participate in an externship at a medical office. The online format gives students the ability to access course materials, interact with their professors and peers and turn in homework from anywhere with Internet access.
Common Medical Assisting Courses
The coursework for this associate's degree is comprised of core medical assisting classes and general education courses in areas like social or behavioral science, speech and information literacy. Lab courses and externship experiences make up the remainder of the curriculum.
Anatomy and Physiology
This course examines the physical structure, function and activities of the human organs and body systems, as well as nervous, lymphatic, cardiovascular, digestive and reproductive systems. Common disorders and diseases of these systems are also discussed from micro and macro levels.
Clinical Assisting Procedures
This course focuses on the skills and knowledge necessary to provide a practicing physician with adequate help, work as an effective clinical unit and relate to patients. These skills include doing anthropometric measurements, catheterizing, autoclaving, sterile gloving and calculating medicine dosages.
Basic Pharmacology and Pathophysiology
Common human diseases are highlighted, as well as the causes, symptoms and strategies for diagnosis. Students can also learn effective ways of treating these diseases with drug therapy, along with the drug categories, side effects and safety precautions.
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Associate's Degree in Medical Office Administration
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Science (A.S.) online degree programs are available in medical administration or medical office administration. Students enrolled in these degree programs study a large spectrum of medical and healthcare-related subjects with an emphasis placed on health information management. Essential skills involving authoring medical reports, billing insurance companies and properly interacting with patients are also covered.
Program Information and Requirements
An associate's degree in medical office administration requires 60-76 credit hours for completion. Certain schools require students to attend campus to undertake certain laboratory components and an in-person internship experience to hone their clinical skills; however, some programs do not require lab work or an internship for graduation. Students do not typically need to log on to the online courses at any specific times. Communication between students and instructors is achieved through the use of Internet message boards, chat rooms and e-mails.
Common Medical Office Administration Courses
A combination of major core, general education and elective courses make up the curriculum of an associate's degree in medical office administration. Some schools also require students to personal development courses, such as student success skills, career development and financial management.
This course covers foundational keyboarding skills with a focus on proper typing techniques and speed building. Keyboarding methods used to prepare office documents are highlighted, as well as assisting graduates with developing a typing rate of at least 25 words per minute.
Medical Coding, Billing and Insurance Procedures
The different types and structures of medical insurance programs offered through contemporary healthcare and other common third party payers are identified. Billing formats, coding concepts and the universal claim form are introduced, as well as alternate plan options, state and national regulations, modern reimbursement methods and compliance.
Medical Ethics and Legal Issues
Students analyze the intricate legal and moral issues concerning the healthcare environment. Topics examined include patient privacy and confidentiality, professional liability, legal requirements of medical practices and guidelines for medical office personnel.
According to O*Net, 26% of medical transcriptionists have some college experience and no degree (online.onetcenter.org). Although not required for employment as a medical transcriptionist, graduates have the option of becoming an RMT by passing an exam from the AHDI. After two years of professional experience, RMTs have the option of becoming Certified Medical Transcriptionists (CMT) by passing an additional AHDI examination. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in May of 2015, there were 57,830 medical transcriptionists and the median yearly salary in the same year was $34,890 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also predicts an occupational decline of 3% between the years 2014 and 2024.
Although many medical assistants have received their high school diploma, O*Net reported that 18% have received an associate's degree. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers professional certification, which is optional, but can be beneficial and provide increased job security (www.aama-ntl.org). In May of 2015, the BLS reported that there were 601,240 medical assistants and the median annual salary was $30,590. The BLS also predicts a 23% growth rate for this field from 2014 to 2024.
O*Net found that 78% of medical secretaries have a high school diploma or some college training but no degree. Many medical secretaries receive extensive on-the-job training from their employers. It was reported by the BLS that there were 530,360 people employed as medical secretaries as of May 2014. The BLS also noted that the median annual salary for this career was $33,040 (www.bls.gov).
Due to the rapidly evolving technology inherent in the medical field, medical transcriptionists are strongly encouraged to seek continuing education credits. RMTs and CMTs are required to participate in a certain number of continuing education hours in order to maintain their designations. The AHDI and other medical associations like the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offer many online continuing education credits with discounted prices for members. Continuing education courses in areas such as healthcare delivery systems, ICD-9-CM coding and the privacy initiative are presented fully online.
By earning continuing education credits, professional medical assistants may be able to perform more complicated duties, which can lead to future career advancement to positions such as office manager. The AAMA requires continuing education credits for recertification and offers a wide variety of e-learning courses in areas such as collections for the medical practice, blepharoplasty and postpartum depression.
Students looking for an online or hybrid program in medicine that will open the door for entry-level employment can find many schools offering a number of associate degree programs. These programs can prepare graduates for careers in medical transcription, medical assisting or medical office administration.