As the American population grows older, the need for medical assistants will continue to grow. According to the , employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 29 percent from 2016 to 2026. The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to increase demand for healthcare services for diseases and disorders including Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Osteoporosis, and Cancer to name a few. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.
This increase in demand, though, isn’t the only trend that’s being created due to a growing number of patients. The field is having to evolve to meet the needs of a continuous influx of new patients, and this is driving several trends affecting the medical assistant profession. The following trends will likely have the greatest effects.
Trend #1 – Increased Use of Mobile Devices
Most exam rooms used by doctors for treatment have their own computers installed inside. Clinics without extensive funding may have a single computer that is carted to different rooms, but there’s always a PC devoted to entering patient information.
Increased Use of Mobile Devices Trending
While this will likely remain true, the increased use of mobile devices in healthcare will certainly have an effect on medical assistants. A full plan on implementing an initiative focused on mobile devices prior to April 2018.
This will very likely make the jobs of medical assistants easier, but they’ll also have to focus more on device security in this new era. HIPAA rules don’t go out the window just because someone left their tablet in the breakroom.
What is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was developed to help ensure the confidentiality of medical records in the age of the computer. The HIPAA privacy rule requires that healthcare providers, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses gain authorization before they can use or disclose protected patient information. This privacy rule requires that the covered entities provide patients with written notice of their privacy practices and the patient’s privacy rights. Further, all pharmacies, health plans and other covered entities must obtain an individual’s authorization before sending marketing materials. Lastly, patients must be able to access their personal medical records and be able to request changes to correct any errors.
Trend #2 – Demand for Specialization Increases
There will certainly be plenty of medical assistant jobs to go around in the coming years, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that hospitals and other facilities won’t be demanding in who they employ. Thanks to the aging population, employers are seeking individuals who specialized or have experience in obesity and geriatric care.
Trending Demographics in Healthcare
Of course, there are other demographic changes that will also create a demand for certain specializations. The explosion in birthrates, for instance, means those with experience in pediatrics will be in demand.
An increasing population of foreign-born Americans will also put bilingual medical assistants in high demand. According to the , 1 in 4 children under 18 in families have at least one foreign-born parent. During the 2010 census, almost 13 percent of the population of the U.S. reported as foreign-born.
Trend #3 – Utilization of App-Provided Vital Signs
Everyone that walks through the door for treatment has to have their vital signs recorded. As technology continues to evolve, though, healthcare professionals may have access to these readings before the patient even arrives. While this may seem outlandish, the use of wellness apps has already started the trend.
What are Mobile Wellness Apps?
Mobile apps are software programs that run on smartphones and tablets. They can also be accessories that attach to a smartphone or other mobile communication devices, through the Internet of Things or Bluetooth.
The Increased Usage of Mobile Wellness Apps
In just three years, the use of mobile wellness apps has grown dramatically. According to industry estimates, 500 million smartphone users worldwide will be using a health care application by 2015, and by 2018, 50 percent of the more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users will have downloaded mobile health applications, as reported by the With a patient’s permission, this will give medical assistants access to data they may have had no way to collect previously. Medical assistants will need to educate patients on why this isn’t a good idea.
Trend #4 – Full Acceptance of EHRs
The use of electronic health records (EHR) quickly became widespread after it was linked to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement back in 2014. EHRs are now widely expected, but many medical programs still fail to focus on this burgeoning trend. This is all about to change. The finally called for EHR training in medical programs across the country. Fortunately, this increased training will only benefit medical assistants trying to stand out among their peers.
What is an Electronic Health Record?
The electronic health record (EHR) is a systemized collection of a patient’s electronically stored health information. The electronic health records can be shared by all providers in a patient’s care including physicians, medical offices and healthcare professionals.
Some of the information recorded in electronic medical records includes vital signs, medical history, medications, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, patient demographics and all insurance billing information.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) vs Electronic Health Records (EHR)
The EMR is a single physician’s digital copy of a patient’s chart. The EHR is an all-inclusive snapshot of the patient’s medical history, designed to be shared with other medical providers. The EHR offers streamlined sharing of updated, real-time information. The EMR can be used by a physician to treat and diagnose a patient and the EHR can chronical a patient’s history for collaboration by all medical professionals that work with the patient.
Trend #5 – Improved Data Analytics
Modern data analytics is doing things that many never thought possible. Through machine learning, data is now used to identify potential epidemics, catch misdiagnoses, ensure appropriate record keeping and much more. There’s no question that data analysis will change the healthcare world forever.
Medical Assistants Keeping Up with Healthcare Trends
Of course, this also means that medical assistants will be directly affected by the trend. It will be necessary for these professionals to constantly update their skillsets to remain desirable in a high-demand occupation. This certainly doesn’t mean they will need a degree in computer science but learning the basics of this technology can’t hurt.
The healthcare industry is a constantly-evolving entity. Changes in population, trends, technology, demographics and a variety of other areas can have lasting effects in this profession. This reality is especially pronounced in the medical assistant world. Due to their roles in taking on tasks that range from medical to administrative, it’s essential that medical assistants monitor trends in the healthcare arena and constantly adjust to them.
Are you ready to learn more about healthcare trends affecting medical assistants? Meridian College offers hands–on Medical Assistant training from experienced school faculty who know how to prepare you for the daily challenges you’ll face on the job. From assisting doctors with patients to important administrative tasks, our experienced Medical Assistant program teachers will train you for a rewarding new career.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a medical assistant.