Remote Work Environments: A Coder’s Perspective


by Ann Barnaby, CPC, CRC

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it one thousand times: “I got into medical coding so I could work from home.” These words may represent the honesty of the coding student, but they still make me cringe. Remote work is not a reason to go into a field of work. If you aren’t passionate about the work you’re doing, a remote work environment can actually be the largest detriment to productivity and quality for a coder to face.

Remote work has truly become an extension of the in-office structure. Coders are expected to work specific hours, usually when the in-office team is working. If you want flexibility of schedule, you may not necessarily be granted that flexibility.

I’ve seen many situations where the remote coders are held to a higher standard than in-office coders. I once was asked why I had been on the system, at home, for “only seven hours and fifty-five minutes, instead of the required eight hours.” I was shocked and thrown off guard. I knew that I had worked hard for the hours that I put in, and five minutes was being called into question. The experience taught me a valuable lesson: Remote coders are often subject to more audits and more scrutiny than in-office coders. This is because remote environments are still viewed as a privilege, and coders must earn and maintain that privilege. Be prepared to track your own productivity independently from your internal tracking mechanism; this can help you to answer any questions that may arise regarding your work.

Communication is key to a successful remote coder. Truly evaluate your communication skills, your ability to take criticism, whether it’s over the phone or in an email, and your willingness to reach out to a trusted manager or fellow coder when you have questions. If you have any issues with any of these important qualities, remote work might not be the best situation for you.

It should go without saying, but remote work is not, and never will be, a replacement for daycare or hired childcare. A coder cannot work to the best of their ability when their focus is shifted, even if blocks of 30 to 60 minutes is granted to one task. A remote work environment should be treated as an office environment, minus the commute. Treat the situation with respect, set aside the required HIPAA -compliant work station, and act as if you are being directly managed at all times. These rules and guidelines that you set for yourself will be reflected in your work.

If you have your heart set on a remote work environment, remember to ask yourself: How do I grow as a coder? What environment is best for me and my career?

 

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About the Author

Ann Barnaby, CPC, CRC, CASCC
Ann Barnaby, CPC, CRC, CASCC, is the Founder and Managing Director of Project Resume, a company that provides professional development, education, and career counseling to medical coders and HIM professionals. Ann began her professional journey when she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Policy and Administration as a student at The Pennsylvania State University. She earned her first coding certification in 2005, and has enjoyed a rich coding career ever since, in medical coding and billing, recruiting, training, education, and management of medical coding teams. Ann’s vision for Project Resume is to ensure that every healthcare professional fulfills their own career dreams. Project Resume can be found on the web at projectresume.net, and Ann can be reached at [email protected]

5 thoughts on “Remote Work Environments: A Coder’s Perspective

  1. Angelica Stephens - June 16, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I couldn’t agree with the author more. Being in this field for more than two decades I have heard the statement about working from home over and over again. I tried working from home 100% I quit within two weeks. I had excellent support, but the thought of losing my job due to low productivity sent me to a state of panic. I went back to my old job.
    Remote coding is not for coders like me, I love leaning, helping and discussing coding questions with others.

  2. Miriam Capps - June 27, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    You can always go back to remote coding if your situation changes. There are both plus and minuses to working from home. Sometimes the pluses have the upper hand and other times it’s the minuses.

    Good luck!

  3. Elizabeth - February 26, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    I personally would rather go back into the hospital to work. Other coders are available to bounce questions off of and providers are accessible for face to face questions instead of e-mail. I also feel as if the concept of a team has disappeared as I no longer k ow my coworkers!

  4. Cassandra Moultrie - February 28, 2020 at 11:45 am

    I have worked from home as a coder and now as an auditor. I briefly went back into the hospital and quickly remembered why I had worked from home. I dislike offife/organizational politics and disruptions. If the company provides tools for HIPAA compliant communicating and sets a standard for using those toola. (IM, Skype for Business, GoTMeeting, Microsoft Teams), then the team won’t feel isolated. Questions can be addressed in real time. Regular staff meetings are important along with manager/coder one on one (or touch base calls)where concerns can be addressed from both sides. Our entire inpatient, outpatient, profee coders, auditors, education teams and managers all work from home. Being remote does not work for everyone, but it does for me…I control the thermostat!!

  5. Terri Scheneberg, RHIT, CCS - February 28, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with this author. I have implemented a Statement of Understanding for my remote coders, that describes the rules of engagement for this opportunity. Some examples of rules are no childcare or elder care during working hours, failure to consistently meet productivity/quality standards will result in lost remote privileges, etc. This at my facility is actually an incentive to work remotely. In order to do so you must first cross train on all record types, meet and or exceed our productivity and quality standards. I also provide ACE employees (Auditing, Coding, Educators) that function as contact on difficult cases so although you are remote you are never alone. This staff is also held to a higher standard at my facility, as they are the “cream of the crop”. I also do not offer “flexible schedules” they have a set standard schedule, so I know the work is getting done when I need it done and not when they feel like doing it. Additionally, what I do is rotate all my remote staff through the office based on a rotation schedule, which allows them the opportunity to catch up with their fellow employees, feel part of the team, gets them out of the house from time to time and my staff enjoy this opportunity. If managed correctly remote coding can be great for both the facility and the employee.