Technology continues to shape and change the way we communicate and do business, and the healthcare field is no exception. Electronic medical records (EMRs) have changed the way that patient health data is stored, processed and used to make informed healthcare decisions for both patients and doctors.
With that change, the need for team members who can properly collect and record patient information has created a new career field. North Arkansas College’s Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) program is preparing local students for careers that didn’t exist a few years ago, but are now in high demand.
The CMA program is a new offering at NAC, now in its third semester. Students commit to the program for one year, split into one semester focusing on administrative tasks and the other semester for clinical training. The goal of the program is to teach students skills to assist healthcare providers in an outpatient clinical setting. That includes everything from taking patient calls to scheduling appointments, creating and maintaining EMRs, billing, filing insurance and other general office skills.
“It’s basically a ‘how-to-run a clinic’ class,” said instructor Kim Cudworth, RN. “It’s a growing field in the health system and a very marketable career. I’m proud to be able to offer this in-demand career option to our students.”
Cudworth is using her experience and resources from her nursing career to get her students as much insight as possible to the healthcare field. The North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC) Population Health team recently visited with the class, and this week NARMC Chief Medical Officer John Leslie, MD, visited with the students.
“Skilled front desk team members are really the life blood of a good clinic,” said Dr. Leslie. “It’s a demanding career, but I’ve always felt nothing is more rewarding than taking good care of patients. CMAs really help us do that.”
Dr. Leslie explained the importance of EMRs to the group and how their role in keeping accurate EMRs is critical to patient care. The EMRs allow medical staff to document and track all pieces of a patient’s medical history, including visits, prescriptions, lab results, phone calls, referrals and questions. Patients now have access to their medical information in ways they never have before. It informs and empowers patients to be more active in their health.
“Having all of this information in one place improves patient safety and cost control by eliminating duplicate tests and screenings,” said Dr. Leslie. “It helps us track trends over time and pinpoint ways to improve the health of our population.”
Running a healthcare clinic is a team sport. The physicians, nursing staff and medical assistants must work together to provide a seamless patient care experience. Every position has an important role to play in delivering that care, and the team succeeds together when everyone is properly trained and committed to excellence.
“I’m excited to see how our field continues to change with technology and to see these students take on these new clinic roles that are such an important part of providing excellent patient care,” said Dr. Leslie.