Consider Remote Coding’s Benefits to Organization and Employee

Fri, Nov 13, 2015 --

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Remote Coding Conference 2015

 

Though healthcare documentation specialists have enjoyed the ability to work from home since at least the 1980s, medical coding professionals have only recently gained access to this opportunity. Why? Coders need access to the patient’s chart to do their jobs, but when paper-based medical records were the norm, practices resisted the logistical difficulties inherent in transporting paper charts outside the office.

However, as electronic health records eased coders’ access to patient records, and as quality web-based encoding software products became more widely available, more organizations implemented remote coding opportunities for their workers.

In 2015, remote coding has become common. Coders/auditors can code or audit charts remotely for providers, insurance companies, and consulting firms. Typically, employers require a coding credential and at least two years’ field experience, but the majority of employers require three years’ experience or more.

Offering Remote Coding Can Help Your Practice

Remote coding benefits practices by broadening their hiring pools outside their local region. By moving coders offsite, organizations free up office space that can be used for clinical applications. Also, because qualified coders can be difficult to recruit and retain, offering them the opportunity to work from home can help keep these valuable professionals on staff.

Organizations may also find that coders working at home become more productive. Freed from distractions caused by the noise and constant activity in a medical office or health information management department, many facilities have been pleased to discover significant productivity increases from their coders, some reporting increases of as high as 40 percent. Coders who work from home are also more likely to volunteer to work overtime during busy periods.

Think Through Processes, Develop Policies and Procedures Before You Go Remote

When considering whether to move coders to remote locations, managers should first consider how their other office processes might be affected. Also, don’t forget to think about how to maintain or improve interdepartmental communication.

For example, if remote coders need to query a physician for documentation clarification, how would they accomplish this task? In the office, this process might be as simple as a quick face-to-face conversation. But if the office has developed formal written query processes, their completion from a remote location should not cause problems. For example, say a remote coder needs clarification about a provider’s documentation before she can assign a code. The coder uses a pre-developed query template in a word processing program, fills it out, and securely attaches it to the EMR. An on-site documentation specialist may be responsible for following up with the provider to make sure the query is answered.

Discover the Status Differences Between Employees and Independent Contractors

Is the remote coder an employee or an independent contractor? According to the Internal Revenue Service, several factors make the difference in determining the degree of control and independence a worker has in performing her job. Look at behavioral issues, such as the degree of control a company wields over how a worker performs her job, as well as financial issues, such as who provides tools and supplies, whether expenses are reimbursed, and how the worker is paid. The type of relationship between the employer and the worker must also be reviewed: Does the worker receive benefits like access to a pension plan, insurance, or vacation pay? If so, the IRS is more likely to consider that worker an employee, with tax consequences to the organization.

Working From Home Isn’t Always Rosy

Some remote workers miss the ability to easily interact with coworkers. Still others report that they lack self-discipline or motivation, or that their children or other family members distract them from their work. Newer coders can be especially impeded by moving to remote coding too early because they lose easy access to the wisdom of senior coders, who have tremendous experience to share.

Solve Problems with Improved Communication

Managers can resolve some of these issues with online systems that monitor coders’ work progress in real time. Also, secure instant messaging systems and electronic office communications centers can help maintain a coding department’s team spirit by facilitating information sharing.

Have You Tried Telecommuting?

Does your office allow workers to telecommute, either as independent contractors or employees? Let us know your experiences. We’d love to hear from you!

Wondering if Remote Coding Is For You?

If you’re thinking about remote coding, then you need to come to CodingCon 2015 in Orlando, because the post conference track on Career Strategies for Work Place Success includes sessions you won’t want to miss! Maggie M. Mac, CPC, CEMC, CHC, CMM, ICCE, will help you figure out if you have the skill set, experience, time, and availability that can let you successfully work from home. Mac’s workshop is designed to help you learn about responsibilities, expectations, and financial considerations of working from home. Register now!

About 

Susan taught health information and healthcare documentation at the community college level for more than 20 years. She has a special love for medical language and terminology. She is passionate about ensuring accurate patient healthcare documentation through education. She has a master's degree in healthcare administration, is a certified healthcare documentation specialist, and serves as immediate past president for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).

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