Have you ever wondered if working from home as a medical coder was for you? I am privileged to have that opportunity along with several of my co-workers. Yet other colleagues, when given the choice, want to stay in the office and work.
Working from home isn't for everyone. A person has to be self-disciplined, self-motivated, and quality and production oriented. When you work from home, the most challenging aspect may be managing your time. You remember the old adage: with great freedom comes great responsibility? This is true with working from home.
Distractions are a way of life when you work and live in the same four walls. These can be anything from other people's agendas, children, pets, television, video games, Internet, social sites, email, phone calls, housework, the weather, etc. All these distractions must be managed properly so that you can be successful. Some of these distractions are the very reason some employees choose to stay in the office and work, rather than work from home.
Most studies have shown that, in general, many employees are more productive and happier working from home. It is just like being in an office but with the added advantage that co-workers are not there to interrupt your train of thought with an impromptu visit. Most of the time spent conversing in the office is nonessential and can be cut out.
But to be honest, some of my co-workers have said they miss those impromptu visits. They get a little lonely sometimes and feel a bit secluded working from home. You don't have anyone sitting near you who you can chat with during the day, and you may not get out and do much face-to-face networking.
It's important to keep up some contact with co-workers when you work from home. Take advantage of networking opportunities at work and in your community as they arise. Make sure to have regularly scheduled meetings, calls, or learning seminars with co-workers.
Dressing for work and "arriving" on time, eating lunch on schedule, and grooming all may seem pointless at first to a coder working at home. However, these are basic elements to any job. If you are not dressed well enough to greet anyone who comes to your door during your work hours, then in what other ways are you willing to be unprofessional in your job? Would you be watching television, checking the internet, having visitors, or taking extra breaks while supposedly working? Getting ready to perform your job and putting your attitude on is what you should do at home just like in the office. It's about having respect for the work you do and the company you work for, wherever they allow you to do it.
Policy and procedures obviously need to be in place to make this venture a seamless one. I asked a few of the surgeons who I work for if they had any thoughts on the transition from coders working in the office to working from home. I did not get any negative responses, but one said, "I thought the coders have always worked from home, to be honest. I really don't think it makes a difference."
It is of the utmost importance to keep the lines of communication open between a coder working at home with the physicians and other providers. Coding is directly related to their income, and you always want to continue to build relationships especially when you don't see them on a daily basis.
Electronic Medical Health Records (EMR/EHR), online educational opportunities, high speed internet, payor and benefit information, and just about any other resources or information you need to accurately code a medical charge is available these days at your fingertips. Companies have been rewarded by increased cost savings as their employees' production and quality continue to increase.
The cost savings for the employee are substantial as well when you consider your commute, clothing, eating away from home, etc. There are costs associated with working from home, which can vary depending on your employer, but the savings usually outweigh the costs.
If working from home is something you ultimately want to do, you have to be willing to put the time and effort into developing a work-life balance. If you can do that, it can be quite satisfying and improve your quality of live. I love skipping the commute, having access to my own kitchen for lunch, being able to walk in my own yard and neighborhood for a break and lunch, and letting the pets in and out when needed. I'm seriously more productive in every way in my life because I work at home.
Debbie Senarighi, CPC, CPC-H, CPC-P, CPMA, of Duluth, MN, has more than 28 years of experience in the health care industry, working as a physician coder, hospital coder, denial and appeals specialist, and she also has worked in the claims area of the insurance industry. She has an associate degree in supervisory management and human resources. She is employed at Essentia Health, a large multi-specialty clinic as a physician coder. She strives to "always do the right thing" and to "keep learning for a lifetime." She is a member of the AAPC National Advisory Board. (www.aapc.com)