With the growing demands many physicians and other healthcare providers face, the role of support staff has become increasingly important. Two positions in high demand are patient care technicians (PCTs) and medical assistants (MAs). Although these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.
This article will explore the similarities and differences between PCTs and MAs, including their job duties, education and training requirements, and salaries. We’ll also provide guidance on choosing between these two positions for your practice.
What is a patient care technician?
A patient care technician is a trained healthcare worker who provides basic patient care services. PCTs typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They may also provide home healthcare services.
Patient care technicians tend to have a more hands-on role than other healthcare workers. They may help patients with daily activities, such as bathing, completing therapy exercises, and eating. PCTs also take vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature.
Working in this type of role also involves helping patients with mobility and ambulation and providing emotional support. PCTs are also responsible for observing and reporting changes in a patient’s condition or behavior to the care team. They are often the first direct line of contact for healthcare providers, so strong communication and customer service skills are essential.
In some settings, PCTs are also responsible for performing medical tasks such as drawing blood or changing dressings. This can vary depending on the type of facility they work in and their level of training.
It's also common for PCTs to work in a clerical role, such as medical front office assistant or virtual assistant. Be sure to read and learn more about the benefits of implementing a virtual front desk receptionist.
What is a medical assistant?
A medical assistant is a healthcare worker who provides clinical and administrative support to physicians and other healthcare providers. MAs typically work in doctors’ offices, clinics, and other outpatient healthcare facilities.
The medical assistant role varies more than the PCT role. This is because some medical assistants work solely on administrative tasks versus performing administrative tasks and providing hands-on care. Administrative tasks that MAs may perform include scheduling appointments, handling patient correspondence, and billing and coding insurance forms.
What sets MAs apart from PCTs is that they can also be responsible for more specialized clinical tasks, such as taking patient histories, preparing patients for exams, helping physicians during exams, and collecting specimens. In some cases, MAs may also perform basic laboratory tests and administer injections or medications.
Medical assistants must have a thorough understanding of medical terminology and anatomy. They’ll also need to be comfortable working with computers and EHR systems. Like PCTs, MAs must have strong communication and customer service skills.
If you’re considering hiring an administrative medical assistant, Hello Rache is a great option. With Hello Rache, you can hire an experienced and qualified medical assistant to help with administrative tasks while freeing up your physicians to focus on providing care.
Similarities and differences
Although PCTs and MAs both provide support to patients and other healthcare providers, there are several key differences between these two positions.
PCTs typically work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or home health settings. MAs usually work in doctors’ offices, specialty clinics, and other outpatient healthcare facilities. The level of patient care and interaction may also vary depending on the setting.
Training and licensing
PCTs typically receive their training at a vocational school or community college. They must also be licensed in most states. Medical assistants, however, can complete their training through an accredited medical assistant program or on-the-job experience. Some states may require medical assistants to be certified or licensed.
Daily duties and responsibilities
PCTs are responsible for providing respiratory, rehabilitative, and personal care services. These services may include helping patients with activities of daily living (ADLs). Medical attendants have a more varied role than PCTs and may perform both administrative and clinical duties depending on the setting.
Generally speaking, the rate of pay for both MAs and PCTs is $15-$20 per hour. However, this rate can vary widely based on experience, location, and type of facility.
Despite these differences, both positions require excellent customer service skills and attention to detail. Additionally, both of these career paths are in high demand and can benefit medical offices struggling to keep up with administrative tasks.
Patient care technician vs medical assistant: job duties
One of the main differences between PCTs and MAs is their job duties. Medical assistants tend to work behind the scenes, while patient care technicians typically work more directly with patients.
Patient care technician
Assist with activities of daily living
PCTs help patients with fundamental activities, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Many consider these professionals to be some of the most important members of the healthcare team.
Take vital signs
PCTs also take vital signs, such as temperature, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure. Documenting this information accurately is essential for patient care.
PCTs may also be responsible for transporting patients to different areas of the hospital or healthcare facility. This can include taking them to surgery, radiology, or rehabilitation services.
MAs are often patients’ first point of contact. They are responsible for scheduling appointments, confirming insurance coverage, and providing general information about office policies.
Handle patient correspondence
MAs also handle patient correspondence, such as filing medical records, insurance forms, and other paperwork. These professionals must ensure that all documents are accurate and up-to-date.
Prepare patients for examination
Before they meet with their doctor, MAs may help patients check in for their appointments, collect insurance co-pays, and gather medical information. Choosing a virtual office assistant can help take care of some of these time-consuming tasks.
Take and record medical histories
MAs may also be responsible for taking and recording patient medical histories. This can include data such as family history, prior surgeries, current medications, and allergies.
Ultimately, PCTs are responsible for providing direct care to patients, while MAs typically focus on administrative duties. Although their job duties differ, both of these healthcare professionals are a vital part of the patient care team.
Patient care technician vs medical assistant: education and training
Both patient care technicians and medical assistants have educational requirements when it comes to licensing and training programs. Typically, PCTs need to complete a postsecondary program, while MAs can opt for an accredited program or on-the-job training.
Patient care technician
Most states require PCTs to be licensed or certified. This typically involves completing a postsecondary program of at least one year that includes both classroom and clinical instruction.
In addition to completing a program, PCTs may choose to become certified by either the National Association for Home Care & Hospice or the National Healthcareer Association.
The training for patient care technicians is comparable to that of certified nursing assistants (CNAs).
Most MAs choose to complete an accredited program, which can take up to two years. During this period, students will learn the basics of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, clinical procedure skills, and billing procedures.
MAs can also opt for on-the-job training, although this is uncommon. During this training, MAs will learn the necessary skills to perform their duties under the supervision of an experienced medical assistant.
Although it’s not required for employment, many medical assistants choose to become certified by a professional organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants. This can help them stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs.
Choosing a Healthcare Virtual Assistant from Hello Rache will ensure your healthcare team has the necessary experience and credentials to provide top-notch direct patient care.
Patient care technician vs medical assistant: salary and demand
If you’re considering adding a patient care technician or medical assistant to your team, you’re likely considering the average salary and demand for these professionals.
Demand for PCTs is strong, particularly in long-term care facilities and hospitals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for medical assistants to be much higher than average, at 16% through 2031.
The average hourly salary for a patient care technician is $15.08 per hour, while the average pay for a medical assistant is $16.26 per hour. Both of these salaries are higher in certain states and depend heavily on experience and certifications held.
Compare these rates of pay to the rate of a Hello Rache virtual assistant who can assist your practice by fulfilling your administrative needs. Pricing is clear and set at a fixed rate of $9.50 per hour. This allows you to budget appropriately and gives you peace of mind knowing that your healthcare team is qualified to do the job.
With an experienced virtual assistant, you can rest assured that your healthcare team’s performance is top-notch while opening up your time to focus on other important patient-facing tasks. Creating a virtual healthcare team with Hello Rache is an excellent way to ensure that your practice has the best patient care and support possible.
How to choose between a patient care technician and a medical assistant
No matter what type of medical practice you run, it’s important to be careful in choosing whether to hire a patient care technician or a medical assistant. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:
Consider the scope of the services you offer, and decide whether a PCT or MA is better suited to meet your needs. Most outpatient medical practices, like chiropractic, dental, or primary care offices, can benefit from an MA.
Your business goals and needs
Medical practices and outpatient facilities of all sizes typically employ both MAs and PCTs. However, the balance between the two depends on your specific business goals and needs. For those looking for a more general assistant, MAs are typically the best option.
The types of patients you see
When deciding between a PCT and an MA, you’ll need to consider the type of clients or patients you see. If your patients need help with tasks like bathing, dressing, or taking medications, then a PCT would be the better option.
Finally, consider your budget when making your decision. You don’t want to have the added stress of an expense you can’t manage. Make sure you research the salaries and costs associated with hiring a PCT or MA so that you can make the best choice for your budget.
A staggering 62.8% of physicians experienced burnout in 2021. This was a significant increase from the previous year, as only 38.2% reported feeling this way in 2020. It’s crucial for physicians and healthcare professionals to establish a work-life balance so that they can do their best to avoid this issue.
Virtual assistants from Hello Rache provide a reliable, affordable way for you to get the help you need. These professionals connect with patients and other members of your team via secure software on a laptop or tablet. This makes it easy for you to manage your practice without taking away from your personal time.
With an experienced virtual assistant, you can rest assured knowing that your healthcare team’s performance is top-notch while having the time to focus on other important tasks. Creating a virtual healthcare team with Hello Rache ensures you have the best patient care and support available.
Find a medical assistant for your practice
Choosing between a patient care technician and a medical assistant can be difficult. However, with the right research and understanding of your business goals and needs, you can make a decision that works for your practice. Consider the services you offer, the types of patients you see, and your budget when making this decision, as all of these are important factors.
Choosing Hello Rache for virtual administrative services is an excellent way to ensure your healthcare team performs efficiently while freeing up much-needed personal time for yourself. With Hello Rache’s experienced professionals, you can trust that your practice will be managed efficiently and with care. Book a call with Hello Rache today to learn more.