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Who's Who In Your Doctor's Office?

Medical offices have a lot of staff but one common goal—helping you, the patient. Here are some of the people you may meet during your doctor’s appointment:

1. Your Doctor

There are primarily two types of medical degrees to become a fully licensed and board-certified physician who is able to prescribe medication, and perform procedures, and practice medicine independently. These two degrees are M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), and D.O (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both attend medical school and receive substantial training.

An M.D. degree is only conferred from an accredited allopathic medical school. Allopathic medicine is the oldest, and therefore more traditional and widely accepted form of medicine, and M.D.’s make up the vast majority of all practicing physicians. A D.O. degree is conferred from an osteopathic medical school. Osteopathy uses all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment but also places additional emphasis on the achievement of normal body mechanics as central to maintaining good health.

2. Other Medical Staff

Medical assistant (MA): An MA is an allied health professional who is not a nurse or physician assistant and must work under nurses and doctors, as they do not hold a license. Medical assistants perform administrative and/or clinical tasks to support the work of physicians and other health professionals, such as measuring patients' vital signs, administering medications and injections, recording information in medical recordkeeping systems, preparing and handling medical instruments and supplies, and collecting and preparing specimens of bodily fluids and tissues for laboratory testing.

Technician: Technicians are in charge of performing routine tests, such as drawing blood and running EKGs. They are usually certified by the state, and they typically wear scrubs. Many technicians have an associate’s degree in clinical laboratory science.

Certified nursing assistant (CNA): CNAs assist nurses with patient admittance and vitals. It is the lowest level credential that one can have in the nursing field. A CNA typically works in a nursing home or hospital, and performs everyday living tasks for the elderly, chronically sick, or rehabilitation patients who cannot care for themselves. Degree level:  high school diploma.

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN): LVNs work in clinics or private home settings and are responsible for registering patient vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure, collecting blood samples and feeding, dressing, and caring for patients. A person can generally become an LVN with two years of training; all U.S state and territorial boards also require passage of the NCLEX-PN exam. Degree level: diploma/associate.

Registered Nurse (RN): An RN is a nurse who has graduated from a nursing program and has passed a national licensing exam to obtain a nursing license An RN's scope of practice is determined by local legislation governing nurses, and usually regulated by a professional body or council. Registered nurses are employed in a wide variety of professional settings, often specializing in their field of practice. Registered nurses must usually meet a minimum practice hours requirement and undertake continuing education in order to maintain their registration. Degree level: associate/bachelor’s.

Nurse Practitioner (NP): An NP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has completed advanced coursework and clinical education beyond that required of the generalist registered nurse (RN) role. Nurse practitioners (NPs) manage acute and chronic medical conditions, both physical and mental, through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, and the ordering of diagnostic tests and medical treatments. NPs are qualified to diagnose medical problems, order treatments, prescribe medications, and make referrals for a wide range of acute and chronic medical conditions within their scope of practice.Degree level: master’s/doctorate

Phyician assistant (PA): A PA is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine as part of a team with physicians.PAs are concerned with preventing and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care services under the supervision of physician or surgeon. They conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, develop treatment plans, perform procedures, prescribe medications, counsel on preventive health care and may assist in surgery. Physician assistant education is based on medical education, although, unlike medical school, which lasts four years plus a specialty-specific residency, PA training is usually two to three years of full-time study, completed during their post-graduate studies, for a total of six to seven years of science-based postsecondary education.

Medical Student: A medical student is a Student in a graduate-level medical program.

Resident: A resident is a medical school graduate undergoing on-the-job training.

Intern: An intern is a first-year resident, usually not yet licensed to practice medicine.

Fellow: A fellow is a residency graduate undergoing continued subspecialty training.

3. Office Staff

Receptionists and front office staff: These professionals are often the first team members you encounter. Typically, they verify your appointment details, request additional paperwork and process insurance information.

Practice manager or administrators:  Practice administrators manage the overall business operations. They may be able to answer your financial questions or direct you to someone in billing to discuss payment plans or discounts.

Coding and Billing: A medical coder translates all the details of a patients record into codes used by insurance companies to determine how much they reimburse a doctor's office or hospital. A Medical biller works with the insurance companies to process medical bills incurred by patients, and ensure that the respective health care providers are compensated, for all services rendered. While the medical coder and medical biller may be the same person or may work closely together to make sure all invoices are paid properly, the medical coder is primarily responsible for abstracting and assigning the appropriate coding on the claims, and the medical biller is responsible submitting claims to the insurance companies, following up on claim statuses, resolving claim denials, submitting appeals, posting payments and adjustments, and managing collections.