Succeed as a Remote Coder With These Top Tips

Tue, Dec 8, 2015 --

My Career

Remote Medical Coders

Yesterday, we talked about some of the basic time commitments and resources that you’d need to work as a home-based medical coder. Today we continue our discussion with Maggie M. Mac, CPC, CEMC, CHC, ICCE, CMM, in her presentation on remote coding at the 2015 CodingCon in Orlando, Florida.

Craft a Flawless Resume

When you’re looking for your first remote coding job, it’s important to make sure your resume is top notch. Include a professional-sounding email address consisting of your full name, not something like “cutiepatootie1@coders.com.” And whatever you do, don’t use the email address attached to your full-time employer! Include a phone number, too, and don’t forget to check your outgoing message. You could have forgotten that you and your friend recorded a comical message about Joe’s Bar that greets callers to your voicemail, and you don’t want prospective employers hearing that, Mac said.

Have someone proofread your resume before you send it out or upload it, because it’s easy to miss mistakes. Many prospective employers will scan a resume for typos, and if they see any, they toss the resume right in the trash. “My pet peeve,” said Mac, “is the person who writes on their resume that they are detail oriented, but they misspell the word oriented.” And keep the resume brief and to the point, customize it to the specific job for which you’re applying, and include bullet points of experience that are important to that employer.

Interview Your Prospective Employer While She Interviews You

Next, assuming your resume passes muster to pique the interest of the hiring manager, you’ll get a phone call and interview setup. Of course your interviewer will have questions for you, but be sure you have questions for the interviewer, too. You’ll want to know what sort of work schedule is required, whether training would be on site, and whether the work would be on a long-term or short-term contract. What productivity standards are required—will it be based on number of claims entered, or will your workload be measured by encounters, or by entire charts?

“As a hiring manager, I would love to hear an interviewee ask me something like, ‘you’ve hired for this position before; what problems have you encountered, because I want to make sure I am not a problem for you,’” said Mac.

Determine Whether Job Is Employee or Independent Contractor Status

You’ll also want to check whether the position is an employment opportunity with paid benefits and withheld taxes reported on a W2, or whether it’s an independent contractor spot where you pay your own taxes based on a 1099 schedule C.

If you impress your hiring manager enough to get to the next step, you’ll be asked to take a coding test, which will often include evaluation and management (E/M) coding. “I cannot emphasize enough,” said Mac, “that E/M is the big banana.” Everyone needs E/M background and experience, even if that is not the most important aspect of that particular job, she said.

What Body Part Is the Abdomen Again?

With luck, the test the prospective employer sends you will have to do with the work you’ll be doing on the job, and they won’t send you an E/M test when you’ll be doing nothing but radiology coding, Mac said. E/M coding on a remote basis is especially tricky because you may encounter coding guidelines that differ from those you may be familiar with in your own state. “Some payers consider the abdomen an organ system for the purposes of E/M coding, and others think of the abdomen as a body area,” Mac said. Your test would show whether you knew how to find out these differences with research.

Communicate Your Way to Success!

Once you’re hired, Mac said, “Your number one job as a remote coder is communication.” She said that if she sends an email to one of her home-based employees, she expects an answer within 4 to 5 hours, if not sooner. “You have to be immediately available, like the physician in the office suite in cases of incident-to billing,” she laughed, pointing out that for remote-based workers, staying connected with the office is as crucial as it is for a provider to be present in the office when incident-to billing occurs. Remote workers must be available to respond to any question the supervisor or client might have, and failure to respond rapidly is a sign that the employee can’t be trusted.

Remote coding can be a work setting offering numerous benefits, ranging from a relaxed dress code to a super-easy commute consisting of walking from your kitchen to your home office. The opportunities for professional growth are limited only by your ambition. Remote coding may well be your dream career!

Are You a Remote Coder?

Are you working from home and living the dream? Or did you try it once and find it wasn’t what it seemed? Let us know in the comment box below.

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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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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Catherine Du Toit Says:

    I am a remote coder. Thank you for the insightful article. I agree with everything, but want to emphasize the availability factor. In today’s world of technology and cell phones being almost a body part, a response should be quick.

  2. Susan Dooley Says:

    That’s a great point, Catherine–thanks!

  3. Candiss Orlando Says:

    I am a remote anesthesia coder and love it! You cannot stress the importance of communication enough – I am constantly checking my email and keep my phone on at all times. Be dependable and trustworthy and you will find your dream job!

  4. Susan Dooley Says:

    You are so right, Candiss, about communication when you’re working from home. Miss an email or a phone call and your boss could think you’re out goofing off! Some companies use instant messaging through products like Skype for Business or even iMessage (on the Macintosh), which works like a text message but doesn’t require texting on a phone keyboard. I really like that option, because email (coming in from nonbusiness associates, and worst of all, Facebook notifications) can be distracting. What I did to solve my email issues was to set my boss and coworkers as “VIPs” in my Macintosh Mail application, so I’m notified immediately if they contact me. I didn’t think I’d like working from home, but with all the instant communication options available today, I really love it! Thanks for writing!

  5. Laura Packard Says:

    I am a student that will graduate at the end of April with a degree in Medical Reimbursement & Coding. I have a degree in HIM but my certification expired. I will be taking a certification exam after graduating, I need to work remotely. Will my 12 years of claims processing/adjusting experience, along with the HIM degree help me. I see the experience that employers are looking for. I am looking for an ancillary coding position. Which certification exam would be best? Thank you

  6. Susan Dooley Says:

    Hi, Laura, it’s so hard to predict an individual’s job possibilities because success is really up to you, and oftentimes it comes down to persistence. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to break into a new field, but I just googled “ancillary coding” and a number of opportunities for remote coders, even entry-level positions, popped up. I will tell you to prioritize your credential exam pursuits, because medical coding is one profession where credentials really matter. You may notice that many of SuperCoder’s experts have long lists of professional certifications after their names. You might want to look into retaking the exam for your HIM credential (I assume you’re talking RHIT or RHIA, since you said HIM degree); oftentimes if you have the degree, it’s just a matter of paying a fee to retake the exam if you let the certification lapse. As far as coding-specific credentials, if I understand your goals correctly, you’re wanting to work for the physician side of the coding world, in which case I’d recommend a CPC or CCS-P. (In your case, I would definitely go for the HIM credential as well as the coding credential!) It’ll be up to you to prove to prospective employers that your HIM degree, coding education, and extensive experience in claims processing will make you the ideal candidate for their positions. This will mean creating a specific resume and cover letter for each job opening, highlighting the skills that make you the one they want to interview. If you don’t have the experience required, see if you can get the hiring manager to at least allow you to take the entry exam for the position. Good luck!

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