This study examined the roles of medical assistants (MAs) in the use of telehealth to deliver primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through reviews of the literature and interviews with key informants, the study identified the skills and roles of MAs that supported rapid increase in the use of telehealth, policies and practices supporting these roles and skills, and longer-term needs to improve and maintain these skills and competencies. There were few mentions in the literature of MA specific roles associated with delivering telehealth. Key informants indicated that pandemic emergency rules enabled many of MAs’ roles to transfer from in-person to virtual and provided MAs with opportunities to rapidly take on new roles and increased responsibility. How and the extent to which MAs’ telehealth roles were implemented depended greatly on the size and location of the clinic facilities, and the variety and consistency of staffing at the clinics. MAs were generally not well-prepared by their education programs in specific telehealth skills and most of their telehealth training took place on-the-job. Iformants described the benefit of providing MAs with more technical training and education, with a focus on telehealth basics and general technology acumen. MAs will continue to be integral to both in-person and virtual health care teams and more roles for MAs in primary care are likely to emerge in the future. Meeting the current and growing demand for MAs across the US, however, requires increasing the supply of MAs. Without consistent availability of an MA workforce, and if turnover remains high, the path to expanded use of telehealth in primary care may be uneven.
Authors:Pollack SW, Skillman SM, Mroz TM, Frogner BK
Journal/Publisher:Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington
Citation:Pollack SW, Skillman SM, Mroz TM, Frogner BK. Medical Assistants’ Telehealth Roles and Skills in Primary Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, May 2023.
Related Studies:Shifting Roles and Skills of the Allied Health Workforce in Primary Care Due to Increased Use of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Emergency