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Medical assistant, a solution for saving the doctor’s time in France

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With Amendment 7 to the Medical Convention, signed in France in June 2019, a new profession was created in this country: the medical assistant.

The purpose of the medical assistant is to make the work of the general practitioner or the specialist easier by taking over certain administrative tasks and some simple medical duties. This means more time for the doctor to spend on individual patients. The result is better access to care as well as more quality time with the patient. Practitioners who hire medical assistants can benefit from a national social welfare grant if they commit to increasing their patient base.

What are the work duties of the medical assistant?  

The profession of the medical assistant can be viewed as somewhere in-between those of the medical secretary and the nurse.

The medical secretary can only perform administrative duties (answering phone calls, taking payments, appointment booking). There is no special degree required. However, a secretary may not perform any medical-related duties.

A nurse has a nursing degree and can perform many medical duties, such as taking blood samples, renewing standard prescriptions, etc.

The duties of the medical assistant comprise administrative tasks such as welcoming patients, managing patient files and taking payments. They can also include the co-ordination of various actors involved in patient care. The medical assistant does not replace the medical secretary, but can directly help the practitioner with (un)dressing the patient, taking measurements of vital functions and performing certain technical tasks. However, they may not take blood samples, vaccinate or renew prescriptions.

What are the benefits of having a medical assistant at the practice? 

In two years, about 1800 medical assistant contracts have been created. This is relatively few considering the number of practitioners who could benefit from this profession. This could be due to the lack of medical professionals overall, but also due to the established practice; delegating certain duties is not necessarily easy for practitioners who have been trained in and used to carrying out their consultation with the patient alone.

However, a number of technical procedures can easily be delegated to a medical assistant with very little training, e.g. the ECG measurement. The assistant can help the patient undress and lie down, place the electrodes and perform the measurement.

With this kind of help, the physician can focus on the clinical questions, result interpretation and decision how to manage the patient.

Employing a medical assistant is not limited to general practitioners. Other specialists, such as cardiologists and vascular physicians, can also benefit from the help of an assistant.

At the congress of the French Society of Vascular Medicine (SFMV) from 16th-18th September 2021 in Cannes, Dr. Eric Jouen, a vascular physician in Auray, presented a poster on his experience with using a medical assistant at his practice. The assistant performed the measurements of the ankle-brachial index (ABI) for the screening and follow-up of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

After a short training, the assistant was responsible for fitting the measurement cuffs and automatically taking the ABI using a MESI device.

Dr. Jouen recognises that this specific assistance with ABI measurements, added to patient reception and administrative health insurance work, has enabled him a 50% activity increase. 

The MESI mTABLET system enables easy delegation of medical duties. Its ergonomic interface and design enable the making of diagnostic measurements with a minimum of expertise. Performing resting ECGs, ABI and TBI measurements, blood pressure measurements and spirometry are all technical acts that the medical assistant can perform instead of the physician. Moreover, the instantaneous synchronisation of MESIrecords and the Share function of the MESI mTABLET system allow for an optimum workflow between the medical assistant and the physician.

With an all-round medical device, doctors can easily delegate certain technical tasks to their medical assistants. This opens more quality time for the patient.