Medical assistants embrace new role within health care reform

Jul 15,2013
American Association of Medical Assistants online news source CMA Today recently featured an article focusing on the efforts of Samaritan Internal Medicine in Corvallis.

The article discusses the changing role of medical assistants within health care reform and patient-centered medical home implementation.

“As part of the medical home project, our medical assistants are learning to play a different role, to be more involved in patient care as health coaches,” said Pat McNeely, CMA. “Health coaches play an important role in patient-centered medical homes, educating, motivating and helping patients stay engaged in their own health care."

The clinic has assigned a nurse practitioner to work once or twice a month on medical assistant training.

“The training involves improved documentation procedures, helping patients set personal health goals, follow-up protocol, and working with the care plans of patients as they are put in place,” McNeely said. “We’re clued in to when a patient might need a medication refill or to have blood work done, or, for example, a follow-up appointment scheduled for a liver function test.”

Certified medical assistants also help the clinic offer patient support groups, an important part of health care education and delivery under health care reform.

In recent years, for example, McNeely chronic care program coordinator Patti Dunning, have led a smoking cessation group at Samaritan Internal Medicine. Other support groups have included those for diabetes, pain management and a living-well group for chronic conditions.

“If we have a patient with high triglycerides or high cholesterol with a corresponding health condition such as diabetes or hypertension, we refer them to a support group,” said McNeely. “We also work with dietitians to help guide patients when dietary changes are recommended.”