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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