The business of medicine has always been as complicated and time-consuming as a role-playing game. With the increased paperwork, regulations and cost-cutting measures imposed on health care practices, physicians often must sacrifice adequate communication with their patients.
Medical assistants have come to the rescue as hospitals, private practices and public clinics realize the untapped potential in the frequent and close patient/medical--assistant contact. Medical assistants are now being trained to be health coaches. This role has proven to be beneficial to both patients and practices.
The health coach role
In your standard medical assistant training, you will learn how to help manage an office, use medical software and keep up with busy phones. You'll be taught human anatomy, signs of acute illness and basic patient care.
Health coaching goes beyond these mere clinical and mechanical skills to help you become a top-notch interviewer, counselor and sounding board. You may be asked to handle extensive health questionnaires, manage in-office testing and monitoring of patient samples, and deliver easy-to-understand explanations of how medicines work or why a certain food should not be eaten.
Additional training will be needed to fulfill the health coach role, as each practice or hospital will have their own protocol. The skills you will learn, however, will be invaluable, and you will be able to refine those skills every day as a trained health coach.
Benefits of health coach programs
One of the most significant reasons to expand the medical assistant's role is to curb the high turnover rate among the nation's 500,000 working medical assistants. Creating a way for assistants to use their training as integral members of a health care team may increase their satisfaction and keep them on the job for the long term.
Decreasing turnover of medical assistants helps the office function more efficiently, and patients often appreciate a familiar face when they must discuss their intimate health issues. The expanded role of medical assistants as medical-history takers and lifestyle counselors also frees up physicians to focus on acute cases and decrease the waiting times for patients.
One study showed the best outcome of all: the positive effect health coaches had on a group of at-risk patients. Their research showed improvement in some tests after the patients received health coaching from trained medical assistants.
Becoming a health coach may not be the goal for every medical assistant. Health coaches must be warm, friendly and non-judgmental to win the trust of their patients. This makes sense, since the patient must feel comfortable with their health coach to accept being monitored. If you are a likeable medical caregiver, your patents will welcome your encouragement to stay on a positive health regimen. If this is a role you'd like to play, the opportunity is there.
It's refreshing to know that medical assistant training can lead you to become a game-changer in the lives of your patients and the smooth operation of your future health-care workplace.