Online Medical Office Management Schools: How to Choose

Students interested in medical office management can find online schools throughout the U.S. that offer degree programs in health services management and health information management, and also in the related fields of public health and healthcare administration. Check into your options to choose the right school.

In the medical office management field, there are multiple online degree options. Below, we'll discuss various program levels, how programs are delivered to students and what kind of important professional certifications and credentialing they can prepare students for.

How to Select an Online Medical Office Management School

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree is the usual requirement for a position as a medical office manager, though in some cases a bachelor's degree will suffice for an entry-level job (www.bls.gov). Fields of study for this occupation include health services administration, business administration, public health, health sciences or public administration. Long-term care administration is another potential field of study for medical office managers. Along with the program level, students should consider the program delivery system with the preparation for certification.

Program Level

Online degree programs pertaining to medical office management are available at the bachelor's, post baccalaureate certificate and master's degree level. Some of these programs are hybrid, combining online coursework with onsite seminars and instruction.

Program Delivery System

Students will need to have access to a computer with high-speed Internet along with a valid e-mail address to enroll in online courses. They'll have to check the school's software and hardware requirements, and may need to download the latest versions of a Web browser such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, or Safari, as well as updates for software programs such as Adobe Acrobat.

Most online courses are delivered through a Web-based learning management system such as Blackboard, Moodle or Sakai. Some online courses have definite starting and end dates, while students may be allowed to begin other online programs and take courses at any time.

Students may be required to participate in virtual discussions with their fellow classmates and the instructor in an Internet chat room. These discussions may be 'asynchronous,' meaning that students can log on at any time to participate, or they may be 'synchronous,' requiring students to participate at scheduled times.

Certification Prep

Many employers prefer to hire medical office managers who have been certified, the BLS reported. For this reason, students may want to look for schools with online programs that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) or the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). These programs are typically at the post baccalaureate or master's degree level.

Students who complete an approved program may be eligible to test for American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) certification (www.ahima.org). Though AHIMA offers several certifications in the health information management field, perhaps the most pertinent AHIMA credential for medical office managers is the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA).

Online Degree Option for Medical Office Management

Online Associate Degree in Health Services Management

This online program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in the health services management field. Courses cover business and communication skills, medical office procedures and medical terminology, management principles and medical law and ethics. In addition, students may study topics such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Psychology essentials
  • Medical coding
  • Human resource management

Online Bachelor of Health Science (BHS)

This online health science program is geared towards students who want to go to graduate school following graduation, or who are entering a non-clinical health care job such as a medical or health service manager. Although the health science courses can be taken online, some of the other required course credits may need to be taken on campus, or transferred from another institution. The curriculum generally includes courses in:

  • Clinical ethics
  • Medical terminology
  • U.S. Public health policy
  • Healthcare leadership and organization

Online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Health Information Management

Students who complete this CAHIIM-accredited online certificate program may be eligible to take the AHIMA certification exam to earn an RHIA credential. The coursework in this program covers topics such as:

  • Diagnosis and procedure coding
  • Privacy, security and confidentiality
  • Information systems and technology
  • Financial administration

Online Executive Master of Health Administration (MHA)

This CAHIIM-accredited online program is designed for practicing managers and working clinical professionals. Applicants who have prior experience working in healthcare administration will be able to complete the 2-year master's degree program and earn an MHA. This is typically a hybrid program, combining online coursework with occasional on-campus sessions. Students may also be required to take an internship as part of their professional training. Course topics include:

  • Risk management
  • Health, economics, financing and reimbursement
  • Quality of care concepts
  • Cost effective care

Schools with Online Programs in Medical Office Management

Penn Foster College offers an online associate degree program in health care management, which students can complete in about four semesters. This program requires students to undertake a 160-hour practicum at an actual medical facility before successfully completing the program. Graduates can earn related certifications from organizations including the American Health Information Management Association.

The University of Illinois - Chicago offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Health Information Management as well as a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management, both of which are offered entirely online. Both programs also prepare students for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification exam, which is a very valuable credential when looking for a job in the health care field. Applicants to the bachelor's degree program will need to have completed 60 hours of prerequisite coursework. A handful of related prerequisites are also required to enter the certificate program.

The University of Southern California offers an online Executive Master of Health Administration. The program courses are offered entirely online, though there is a residency requirement. Over the course of the program, students have to attend two four-day, in-person sessions at USC consisting of lectures and group projects that cover pertinent topics. The program is designed to be completed in six semesters, though this is not mandatory and student schedules can be accommodated if necessary.

Students seeking online degrees in medical office management have a number of options, from associate to master's degree programs. Prospective students may want to evaluate how the programs are delivered, whether they will work for their schedule and if there is a residency requirement or not.

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