What is a Medical Office Assistant (MOA)? Roles & Responsibilities

Updated January 2024

Want a healthcare career that offers a blend of clerical and clinical work? A role as a medical office assistant could be ideal.

But just what is a medical office assistant? If you took on this job, what would you actually be doing all day?

Medical office assistants (MOAs) are the first point of contact for anyone calling or arriving at a clinic, hospital, or other healthcare facility. They greet patients, update files, prep exam rooms, and carry out a range of other duties that keep the medical office operating smoothly.

In this post, we outline the essential role of MOAs and the many tasks they perform each day. Get a full picture of life on the job and see if this career is a good choice for you.



Medical office assistants play a key role in a healthcare team. They're responsible for a variety of both front-desk and behind-the-scenes activities that help doctors and nurses deliver quality patient care.

On any given day, MOAs handle tasks like:

☑️ Greeting and directing arriving patients

☑️ Verifying and updating patient information in EMR (electronic medical records) software

☑️ Booking appointments

☑️ Scanning documents into patient charts

☑️ Processing billing and insurance

☑️ Ordering supplies and stocking exam rooms

☑️ Answering, screening, and forwarding telephone calls

☑️ Filing, sorting, and distributing mail, faxes, and lab results

☑️ Performing patient height and weight measurements

☑️ Taking patient temperature and blood pressure

☑️ Collecting lab samples

☑️ Cleaning and sanitizing exam rooms and common spaces

☑️ Assisting during examinations



It can be confusing because both roles have "assistant" in the title. However, they are actually very different jobs.

Medical office assistants are entry-level professionals who have a blend of administrative and clinical responsibilities.

By contrast, physician assistants (PAs) provide primary patient care under the supervision of a doctor. They can examine patients, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and assist in surgeries.

To become a PA, you must have a degree from one of four recognized university programs in Canada.

But you can get started as an MOA with a college diploma. Medical office assistant/administrator training is widely available at career colleges across Canada.


WHERE DO Medical office assistants WORK?

Medical office assistants can find work opportunities in a broad range of healthcare settings. Possible employers include:

☑️ Hospitals

☑️ Dental offices

☑️ Walk-in clinics

☑️ Chiropractors' offices

☑️ Physiotherapy clinics

☑️ Medical labs

☑️ Extended care centres

☑️ Home health care agencies

☑️ Addiction treatment facilities

☑️ Nursing homes

Some MOA jobs are part time. In some places (especially in hospitals), you may be required to work evening or weekend shifts.

Your role could vary a bit depending on where you work.

For instance, a medical office assistant in a hospital emergency room must be able to work quickly, maintain a calm demeanour, and determine which patients have the most urgent need for attention (a process known as triage).

On the other hand, an MOA in a family clinic will mostly deal with routine checkups and screenings. You will still have to juggle multiple tasks, but you likely won't have the pressure of life-or-death scenarios.



To succeed as a medical office assistant, you need to possess certain skills and traits. Here are a few examples of what employers look for:


☑️ Health office software

You should know your way around Microsoft Office applications like Word, Outlook, and Excel.

Many employers also look for MOAs who are comfortable with specialty EMR software like Accuro or PS Suite.

These systems are used to schedule appointments, process billing, and update patient charts.

A good MOA course will give you lots of hands-on practice with clinical software so you are fully prepared for your first job after graduation.


☑️ Organization

It takes good organizational abilities to schedule appointments, update files, and keep supplies stocked. Medical offices can be busy places, and you need to be able to keep up.

Managing your time and following proper procedures is critical to keep the office running smoothly.


☑️ Communication and compassion

As the communications hub of the clinic or hospital, medical office assistants have to be able to connect with doctors, nurses, and patients from diverse backgrounds.

Bonus points if you speak a second (or third) language! 

A big part of this role involves greeting patients, answering their questions, and helping them feel comfortable.

That means you need to be friendly, compassionate, and very clear in your communication.



Think you'd like to pursue a career as a medical office assistant? Your first step is finding a quality MOA course from an accredited college.

Herzing offers MOA training online. The course includes an internship at a local clinic or hospital.

If you have questions about training or careers, we suggest speaking with an admissions advisor. An advisor can answer any questions you have about application requirements, course schedules, career options, tuition, or financial aid.

Click below to explore the MOA program and chat live with an advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Online MOA Program

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