II. Benefits of Working as a Healthcare Virtual Staff
III. Minimum Skills Required from a Healthcare Virtual Staff
a. How to Develop These Skills?
IV. Qualifications Needed by a Healthcare Virtual Staff
You may have heard of success stories of medical virtual assistants who have shifted careers from menial work to a home-based job earning more than what you were expecting. You may have wondered, “What did that person do?” Or you may have asked yourself, “Is that something I can also do myself?” In the same line of thought, one may have also considered, “That person must be very skilled.”
While another person’s success can be quite daunting to others, the best perspective to look at it should be between inspiration and motivation. After all, if they can do it, so can you.
In this article, we will focus on the skills and qualifications a virtual assistant medical worker needs to possess, what exactly these skills and capabilities are, and how (or where) to obtain them.
Benefits of Working as a Healthcare Virtual Staff
About 40% of all employees in the U.S. workforce were expected to be freelancers by 2020. This number has increased due to the growing trend of virtual assistants during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 57 million Americans being part of the freelancing economy. By 2027, the number of freelancers in the U.S. is expected to reach over 86.5 million.
Encouraged by the many benefits of having virtual staff, the rise in virtual assistant services is not surprising. Below is a summary of the benefits of working as a virtual assistant medical professional.
Considered by many as the most attractive benefit of working as a healthcare virtual staff is flexibility. You can work where you want – at home while attending to your child’s needs, in shared office space while socializing with other virtual assistant medical professionals, in a hotel while celebrating a special occasion with your partner, or in a vacation spot outside the country enjoying a different view. So long as you have a reliable internet connection and deliver what is expected of you at work, it would not matter where you perform your tasks.
In addition, more often than not, you also get to work when you want. This does not mean you can slack off during your plotted work schedule. It simply means, you can work at your own pace. Moreover, when you become an expert virtual assistant specializing in different fields, you get to pick your clients and possibly set your own schedule.
As a bonus, you also get to pick your background songs. And you can grab your favorite snacks. Just do not spend too much time snacking.
Working remotely means you save a lot of time spent on travel and preparing to travel for work. Let us say you spend 30 minutes commuting and an hour preparing. In a day, that’s 3 hours of precious time which you could easily use for something more productive, like organizing your work and personal files or simply cooking your next meal. You will not have to worry about roadblocks, or flooded streets, or traffic in general.
More so, during breaks and lunchtimes, you will not need to worry about where to go. A few steps to your left, you may already have your kitchen where you can spend your lunch break. A few steps to your right, you may already have your bedroom where you can spend your 15-minute break.
If you have pets at home, they will surely love you more if you work as a virtual assistant since you can spend more time with them each day. Your presence alone will mean a lot to them.
Sense of Fulfillment
Especially for virtual assistant medical workers, being able to help outpatients can be very rewarding. You may not work directly with patients all the time but knowing that you are a part of their well-being or their recovery from certain illnesses is a fulfillment that no salary can match.
What is the Difference Between ‘Skill’ and ‘Qualification?’
Let us differentiate ‘skills’ from ‘qualifications.’
A skill is defined as the learned ability to act with determined results and good execution, often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. In other words, a skill is a competency, knowledge, or, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, the ability to do something based on practice, experience, and training.
On the other hand, qualification is the quality or accomplishment that makes someone suitable for a particular job. A qualification speaks of the quality of one’s work or how one’s skills get demonstrated.
Minimum Skills Required from a Healthcare Virtual Staff
1. Typing Skills
To be an efficient healthcare virtual staff, you need to type accurately fast. According to Indeed.com, most companies looking for virtual assistants require a typing speed of at least 60 words per minute with 100% accuracy. Healthcare institutions may require higher typing speeds since complicated medical terms will be regularly encountered in their communication with patients and between physicians.
How to Improve Your Typing Skills?
For starters, take advantage of free typing test tools online, such as typingtest.com. Run the typing test and see what your initial speed is. To improve your typing speed, you can:
Repeatedly do different typing tests from various online tools until the muscle memory associated with your fingers gets accustomed to the keyboard layout.
Use the keyboard more. For training purposes, a keyboard with hard keys is more advisable. For work purposes, though, soft keyboards can lead to higher efficiency. Volunteer to type emails for an older aunt, start a nightly journal on your laptop or chat more often with your friends on social media. When chatting, remember to use the proper capitalization to become part of your second nature when typing work documents.
Remember to use the proper fingers for typing. If you have accustomed to not using the correct fingers for the right keys on the keyboard, it is high time you learn the correct way of typing. It may be challenging at first, but you will be able to surpass your maximum typing speed in time.
2. Word Processing Skills
Working as a remote medical assistant means relying on computer software and online applications. A high level of proficiency in Microsoft Office applications is expected, along with other word processing tools.
Some of the essential software a virtual assistant needs to be able to use is as follows:
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Excel
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets
- Google Drive
- Skype, Zoom, or other video conferencing apps – for job application interviews and meetings once hired.
When you get hired, expect to be trained in new apps for office communications (e.g., Slack and Microsoft Teams), time tracking (e.g., Hubstaff and Time Doctor), and other business-specific apps.
How to Improve Your Word Processing Skills
The most experienced virtual assistants have spent years using these applications, and they have explored the short keys and mastered the most efficient ways of utilizing this software. If you are not too confident about your proficiency in using these apps, take advantage of the free online tutorials and training materials for the specific apps. Here are a few:
o GCF Global
o Microsoft Training Center
o John Academy – video
o GCF Global
o Udemy – videos included (needs enrollment)
o freeCodeCamp – video
3. Verbal and Written Communication Skills
A virtual healthcare assistant should be able to communicate his messages well both to clients and work colleagues. He needs to convey ideas, suggestions, and recommendations that add value to his work or the institution he works with. He should not be hesitant to ask questions and confirm instructions when needed, and he should be able to employ a positive tone in his correspondence.
Here are some areas where a medical virtual assistant’s communication skills matter:
- Daily email correspondences
- Chat and collaboration apps with peers and clients
- Online meetings and video conferences
- Organization’s social media pages
Tips for an Effective Verbal Communication at Work
- Listen actively. This involves listening to the message and trying to listen for the speaker’s intent or purpose. Respond appropriately when asked. Use verbal nods to let the speaker know that you are listening to what he is saying.
- Understand different communication styles. Some people prefer direct responses, while others need comprehensive explanations or various examples. Some colleagues might choose communication via email, while others might like unscheduled but quick video conference meetings. Learning your co-workers’ preferred communication style can help you achieve more effective communication skills.
- Practice positivity. Instead of saying “no,” you can mention what you can do as an alternative. Instead of saying “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know,” you can say that you will be looking for the answer. Receiving and giving positive responses to other employees at work can result in a friendlier atmosphere and encourage open communication.
- Always stay professional but friendly. While verbal communication is too warm and rigid, you can find a common ground where these two meet. Always follow proper communication etiquette (no foul words, no shouting, do not interrupt, etc.), but be friendly with your messages and tone.
How to Improve Your Written Communication Skills
- Practice, practice, and more practice.
- Read, read, and read some more.
- Use a proofreading tool such as Grammarly to help you check your written output. Understand the rule behind each proofreading note so you will not commit the same mistakes again.
- Learn from your peers and your superiors. Find time to check how they compose their email messages or their published articles online.
- Research. This can help your writing skills in two ways. First, you can research for references before you start writing your piece. Second, you can also explore online how else to improve your writing skills.
- Outline. Sometimes we would come up with lots of ideas streaming at the same time for a given topic. You can only write them effectively through thought organization, which can be achieved by creating an outline. Once created, try to stick to the outline and refrain from branching out.
- Keep it positive. Always be on the positive side when writing, as your tone reflects your company’s core values.
4. Computer Proficiency
If you know your apps and online tools, then that’s great. Computer proficiency, however, means you know your way around computers and the world wide web. You should install new applications, as you would most likely be asked when you get hired as a virtual assistant. You should know how to store your login credentials. You should know how to organize your files on your computer so you can easily pull them up when needed.
Most of the files in the virtual assistant world are stored and shared online. You don’t want to destroy essential files that are being used by many of your colleagues. At the same time, you do not want to move them to some location where others could not access them.
Qualifications Needed by a Healthcare Virtual Staff
It is vital to have the right skills for any job, but your attitude is more important. Qualifications are mostly a matter of perspective. Most of these qualifications do not have documentation on how to achieve, nor are there any training sessions you can address learn them. Some of the qualifications a healthcare virtual staff needs are as follows.
Reliability and Professionalism
If your job role is a healthcare virtual staff, you are expected to perform your tasks and daily duties. The doctor you work for should be able to rely on you to keep him updated with his upcoming meetings and appointments. The patients you send emails should trust you to provide them with the information they are looking for. And you need to perform your responsibilities on a professional level, always.
While training will be conducted for you during your onboarding, not everything can be discussed before starting the actual work. Find time to get to know the company and the people you work with beforehand by browsing through your company files and online pages. Try to refrain from asking questions whose answers are available online.
Accuracy and Efficiency
As a medical virtual assistant, you must provide accurate information to your physicians and patients. If data entry is part of your tasks, you need to manage data in your EMRs (electronic medical records) and EHRs (electronic health records) with a top-level accuracy. In the medical field, a simple clerical error can lead to fatal consequences. While being accurate, you need to perform all these duties efficiently because part of the reason you were hired is the time savings you can offer.
Time Management and Being Organized
You are helping doctors manage their time, but how can you do so without managing your time well? Aside from setting up physician schedules, you might want to create a schedule for yourself as well. And what better way to manage your time than by being organized? Develop a naming convention for your files if you are involved with many documents and spreadsheets. Organize them in well-labeled folders so you can quickly pull them up when needed.
Adaptability, Flexibility, and Resiliency
You will be working with other employees who are oceans away, which means you need to be familiar with their culture and communication styles.
Also, your schedule can be very drastic in the healthcare industry, which should be of little challenge to you if you have flexibility.
Your boss gets friendly one moment, then becomes cranky the next minute? This should not be an issue if you have resiliency. In addition, if you get negative feedback from a colleague due to a mistake, do not be too hard on yourself. Rise and make sure the same mistake will not happen again.
Critical thinking can get you miles in any industry. If you notice a potential problem, then immediately figure way things out within your scope. If the resolution is beyond you, then be open to talking to your boss about it before things get worse.
Continuous Learning and Trainability
If you want to be an expert virtual healthcare assistant and be a top player in your field, then challenge yourself to learn new things. First, aim for proficiency for the roles that you perform. Once satisfied with your expertise on your current duties, expand your portfolio by learning a new skill. Do not be afraid to make minor mistakes because it is through mistakes that we can learn.
During training, make sure you give it your full attention. Research on your own on the topics discussed to broaden your horizons.
When you stumble upon a news article that your doctor can benefit from, let him know. Your physician forgot to mention a task that you are doing every day; you do it anyway. You finish your scheduled tasks early; you go to your boss and ask if there are other tasks you can help with. Do not wait for orders to be assigned to you; you find things to do independently.
Confidence is never a problem for seasoned virtual healthcare staff unless you have chronic stage fright or similar conditions. For beginners though, you need to “fake it till you make it.” Confidence for neophytes can be compared to acting. During the first few takes, the director might not like some portions of your acting, but if you practice speaking with confidence, you will eventually have that applause of acceptance.
Integrity and Self-Discipline
Most companies employing remote workers are now requiring them to install a time tracking app. If your employer is not asking you to install one, it means that he fully trusts you. Integrity means “doing the right thing even when no one is looking,” or even when no time tracking app is monitoring.
Empathy and Patience
Did we mention you will be working with people of diverse cultures? We have different communication styles and have different “wrong buttons.” If someone inadvertently pressed your wrong button, have patience, and let it go. On the other hand, if you mistakenly said something that may have been offensive to another employee, be empathic. Try to identify where the other person is coming from and say sorry.
If your role happens to be customer-facing, you might be needing more of these two traits. Remember how you behave with your customers and clients reflects the company you work for.
Some companies would like their virtual healthcare assistants to be tech-savvy since technology plays a lot in the world of remote workers. You do not need a technical support representative level of tech-savviness; you need enough curiosity to learn the essential technology and apps to perform your job well.
Multitasking and Batching
Multitasking means you are performing multiple tasks at the same time. For example, you are uploading files to your server, and you know it takes about 2-3 minutes to upload a single document. While waiting for an upload to complete, you can do your clerical tasks on the side. Another example is when you take notes while talking to your boss or a patient on the phone.
Batching, on the other hand, is organizing your tasks on a scheduled basis or per batches. For example, you will be working on data entry on your first hour, email management on your second hour, digitizing EHRs on your third hour, and so on. Usually, batching is used for routine tasks because you would not have to finish all your digitizing tasks first since that might take days or weeks or never (pun intended). Your emails would be sad if that were the case.
Quick Thinking and Decision Making
A patient called and is in dire need of the doctor you work for, but he has not shown up, and there was no advice of him being late. What do you do?
Your doctor has an emergency operation, causing a mess for the rest of his scheduled appointments. A patient then sends a text message demanding the doctor for a previously plotted appointment. How do you deal with it?
In the medical field, there will be a lot of times when you will have to exercise quick thinking and sound judgment. It is essential that a healthcare virtual staff has this qualification.