Updated January 2024
With healthcare resources stretched thin and doctors becoming increasingly burdened by administrative tasks, it’s not surprising that the demand for medical office assistants and administrators (MOAs) across Canada has taken off.
MOAs are the front-desk professionals who greet all incoming patients, collect their information, confirm their appointments, and direct them to the correct department or clinician. They also do a lot of work behind the scenes to help the healthcare office run smoothly.
In this post, we explore the increasing importance of and demand for MOAs in the evolving healthcare landscape.
Here’s what you need to know.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Contributions to Patient Care
- Rising Demand: Reasons and Trends
- Key Skills for Medical Office Administrators and Assistants
- Career Opportunities and Outlook
- Average Medical Office Assistant Salary
CONTRIBUTIONS TO PATIENT CARE
As the face of the clinic or hospital, medical office administrators play a key role in making patients comfortable and ensuring they get the care they need.
Imagine you arrive for your doctor’s appointment and there’s no one at reception to book you in, locate your medical records, and tell the physician you’re there. Or you show up at the hospital with an emergency and there’s no one to check you in, take down your information, and connect you with the right specialist.
MOAs set the tone for the overall patient experience.
The duties of a medical office assistant include greeting patients, answering questions, booking appointments, keeping files up to date, and helping healthcare professionals stay on schedule. In some cases, they also assist with clinical tasks like bandaging wounds and measuring vital signs.
“Navigating the healthcare system is complicated for most people. MOAs work with patients to make the experience less stressful,” says Herzing medical office administration instructor Ayo Adetoro.
“They help patients get the right care at the right time. Plus, they help the entire medical team by ensuring the clinic runs smoothly. It’s an important role where you can really make a difference.”
RISING DEMAND: REASONS AND TRENDS
So why are medical office administration jobs in demand? There are a few reasons.
One is the aging population. Statistics Canada says that the number of Canadians over age 85 doubled between 2001 and 2021 and is projected to triple by 2046. And, of course, as people get older, they are more likely to require medical services—leading to increased strain on the healthcare system.
Then there’s the rebound from pandemic-era fears and restrictions. Many people put off chronic disease screening or delayed seeking care for ongoing illnesses while COVID was running rampant, and the healthcare system is still playing catch-up.
But the system is bogged down by inefficiencies. A study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that doctors in Canada are spending 11.7 million hours per year on administrative tasks that could be performed by someone else.
So it makes sense that the demand for MOAs is rising. Herzing career services specialist Caroline Glowatski has seen it first-hand.
“We have probably three employers a week contacting us directly, not through Indeed or anything,” she says. “They’re contacting us saying, hey, do you have an MOA student or grad for me? And we hate turning these people down because they’re good employers. But there just aren’t enough grads to meet the demand.”
KEY SKILLS FOR MEDICAL OFFICE ADMINISTRATORS AND ASSISTANTS
Succeeding in health office administration requires specific abilities. Below are the top medical office assistant skills.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills
A huge part of this role involves answering patients’ questions and helping them feel comfortable, so it’s important to be a good communicator. You’ll need to be patient, empathetic, and non-judgmental while dealing with people from diverse backgrounds, many of whom are stressed or in pain.
MOAs are the glue that holds a medical office together, keeping all aspects of the operation running smoothly. You’ll be maintaining patient records, scheduling appointments, and keeping track of medical supplies, so good organizational skills are a must.
Being adept with computers is one of the most important medical office management skills. In addition to standard software like Word and Outlook, most medical offices use electronic medical records (EMR) software to store patient data, including diagnoses, medications, test results, treatment plans, etc.
MOAs have to be comfortable with computers
You need to be familiar with medical terminology in order to communicate effectively with healthcare professionals, accurately organize charts and reports, and assist in patient care.
Adaptability and Problem Solving
No matter how carefully you plan your day, unexpected events may force you to pivot. Maybe someone comes in with an emergency, or you have a waiting room full of frustrated patients because a doctor is running behind schedule. You need to be able to adapt to circumstances and find a solution to keep moving forward.
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND OUTLOOK
Medical administrative assistants have favourable prospects throughout Canada, according to the Government of Canada Job Bank. Most provinces have a four- or even full five-star rating for career growth and outlook over the next few years.
Regional government data also reflects that strong demand. In Ontario, the provincial government estimates there will be 5,700 job openings for medical administrative assistants between 2023 and 2027. And Manitoba foresees a shortage of these professionals over the period between 2022 and 2026.
Looking more long term, up to 2031, the Job Bank says there will be 4,700 more medical admin assistant jobs than qualified candidates to fill them. That’s at the national level.
Medical office assistant job opportunities can be found in a wide range of settings, including:
- Family clinics
- Urgent care centres
- Medical imaging offices
- Dental clinics
- Addiction treatment facilities
- Chiropractic or physiotherapy practices
AVERAGE MEDICAL OFFICE ASSISTANT SALARY
Salaries for medical office assistants or administrators in Canada vary by region and experience level.
Nationally, the average wage for those just starting out in this field is $17 per hour, which works out to about $35,000 per year. Medical admin assistants at the high end of the scale make $30.47 per hour or roughly $63,000 per year.
The median hourly wage across Canada is $22.56. That’s equivalent to an annual salary of about $47,000 for full-time work.
However, medical office assistant wages vary depending on where exactly you live. These are the areas with the highest median pay:
- Alberta: $28 per hour or $58,000 per year
- Yukon: $25.35 per hour or $53,000 per year
- Prince Edward Island: $24 per hour or $50,000 per year
All salary figures reflect the latest data from the Job Bank as of January 2024.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A MEDICAL OFFICE CAREER
College programs for medical office careers are widely available across Canada. Medical office administration programs typically take no more than 12 months to complete, and some are available online.
The best programs include an internship or practicum to give students hands-on work experience in a real health office or medical clinic even before they graduate.
At Herzing, our career services team works with you to find a placement that suits your interests and abilities. Many of our MOA grads get hired directly from their internships.
Click below to learn more about our program and chat live with an admissions advisor who can answer your questions. We’re here to help!