The Reality Of Being A Medical Coder Who Works From Home

Not a picture of my desk. It would be nice if it looked this neat though.

Many times, if you’re looking at advertisements for coding schools, you’ll see a picture of a young woman working at a laptop. She looks happy and she may be even holding  a baby on her lap. I’ve also seen other advertisements where there’s a picture of someone coding at the beach. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s bubble here, but that is not an accurate depiction of life as a medical coder working from home. I’ll get back to what it’s actually like later on in this post-but some medical coders do work from home and are very successful at it.

What people don’t realize is there’s a lot more than meets the eye. I think some of the schools out there totally underestimate the importance of working on-site first. So much can be learned from that! Not only will you get to meet other coders in your specialty, but you’ll get to see how the whole process works. There’s a lot more to coding than choosing numbers in a book, and the only place to learn these things is on-site. If you work in a billing office you’ll get to see the whole claim cycle, which is important just to grasp things, and see how coding fits into the whole equation. You may even find a coder to mentor you and show you the ropes, which is invaluable! Networking and building relationships with other people is necessary in this field. So while working from home can be a perk of working in this field down the line, it should not be your goal starting out.

Actual picture of my desk. This is Connor and he is my pet supervisor.

So what is it like working from home? The first thing to keep in mind that there are still rules. You still have to have a HIPAA compliant space to work and need to follow your companies guidelines regarding that. Some companies are more strict than others. Some require you have a separate office with a door that locks, others do not. Some companies provide a computer and others require you use your own. Some companies have set hours you have to work while others do not. You get the idea–it’s not as flexible as it may seem at first.

Believe it or not, it can be tough to keep a schedule when you work from home. If you’re allowed to set your own hours, it is very easy to lose track of time. You may start cleaning or cooking or whatever and next thing you know the day is half over. There are many distractions in the home and it’s easy to get side tracked. The best thing to do to avoid this, is to make a schedule and stick to it.

Friend- “Since you’re home all day, you sleep until noon, right?” Me- “That’s not how it works.”

Another problem that many coders have that work from home is the fact that many people think that since you’re working from home, you do not have a real job. They do not respect your work boundaries and think you are around to help with errands, chores etc. But the fact of the matter is, it is up to YOU to set boundaries with people in your life. If your family and friends think that you’re available to help them with things because you’re home, don’t be afraid to tell them no. Would these same people call you if you were at the office for help with an errand? Probably not.

It’s tough when you’re a new coder. You can do well but it just takes time.

I also think that working from home should be for experienced coders only. If you are a new coder and have a question–there is no one around to ask. Production and accuracy are still expected whether you work in the office or at home, and when you’re first learning, it’s to your advantage to be around others to help you if needed.

Another thing to consider before working from home is your personality. This might sound weird but just think about it for a second. If you’re a person who likes to work alone and is ok with being home most of the day, then working from home can work out for you. But if your are a people-person who truly enjoys being around others–you may not like working from home. It can be very isolating and that fact alone can be upsetting to a very social person.

Not a medical coder.

Last but not least–getting back to that picture I mentioned earlier of someone coding at the beach. Many times when you start working a new job you’ll have to sign a contract or an agreement. Usually there is a clause in there saying that you have to actually work in your house and not somewhere in public. It is a HIPAA issue if someone can see your work/computer screen. You also most likely need a secure internet connection to work and it also may need to be a wired connection. Not to mention, all of the seagulls would be very distracting if you’re trying to work on the beach. All kidding aside, as a mom myself I get that it’s appealing to want to work from home. It’s just that the reality of how it really is, is not depicted accurately by some coding institutions out there, and sets students up with unrealistic expectations about the coding world.

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