Health Information Careers Blog
FAQ: Can I work from home as a coder?
Date: October 11, 2010 - by Kristi Stanton
A frequently asked question about the coding industry is, “Will I be able to work from home?” Many career colleges advertise that a career in coding means you can work from home and make excellent money. While this can be true, coding at home is a privilege normally reserved for experienced coders. Some salary surveys have shown that home coders make more money than their office-based counterparts, but closer inspection reveals the increased coders’ salaries are due to years of experience, not work place status.
The use of electronic medical records (EMRs) better enables remote coding programs and many employers are taking advantage by allowing their workers to telecommute in an effort to remain competitive and retain staff. But as I mentioned, working from home is a privilege and it comes with strings attached. Because accounts can’t be billed until they’ve been coded, coders provide a critical piece to the revenue cycle puzzle. As such, coder productivity is always on the radar. The flip side to the productivity coin is quality. Most employers require a 95% coding accuracy – while maintaining an acceptable production rate. Failure to produce and maintain the required coding quality can mean loss of home coding privileges.
So if you want to be a coder because you want to work from home, here are a few things to consider.
- You will likely need to work in-house as a new hire. This could be anywhere from 90 days to 1 year, depending on the employer. If you can’t get your productivity or quality up to par within the orientation period, you may not be given the right to work from home.
- You will need to maintain your quality and productivity at home. Employers realize there are many distractions at home. As long as you get your work done and maintain a high level accuracy, your home working environment is safe. If you can’t keep up with production or accuracy, you may be forced to work onsite.
- Coding requires a high level of concentration. Many times I hear people say they want to work from home so they don’t have to pay for child care. I have known a lot of home coders who ended up paying for child care anyway because they couldn’t concentrate on parenting and coding at the same time.
- Working from home means you are your own IT trouble shooter. If your computer skills aren’t the best, you may want to take a class to bone up on your skills. Unlike working in an office environment where you may have IT support, you will need to become savvy enough to baseline trouble shoot issues with network connectivity and determining if an issue is a problem with your computer or the systems you are dialed into.
- Do you like paper? Do you hit the print button a lot? If so, get ready to let go of that and learn to love a paperless work environment. Employers are serious about HIPAA privacy and security and all the home coders I know have had the print function disabled on their systems.
- Do you have nosy family, roommates, or other lurkers? As a home worker, you need to take HIPAA privacy and security as seriously as your employer. If you will be working when other people are around, you need to consider how you will keep protected health information confidential by locking your computer when it’s not in use and earmarking your work computer for work only. Most employers will provide you with the computer, so you can still maintain a home computer for other users.
- Working from home doesn’t mean never having to go into the office. Most employers have onsite meetings and attendance is required. You will usually be paid for your time onsite, but you won’t be paid for commute time. So if you live far away from your employer, just remember all the time you normally save in commuting when you start to complain about the drive into the office for a monthly meeting.
Still want to work from home? It’s a big responsibility and requires boatloads of self discipline. I work from home when I’m not visiting clients and there are days when it’s great. There are also days that seemingly never end because the “office” is conveniently close. And then there are days when I’d rather be doing anything but working. In other words, working from home is still work.