Work From Home as a Medical Coder

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If money makes the world go around, medical coders make the healthcare industry go around. Medical coders are the vital medical professionals who are responsible for correctly and appropriately billing insurance companies, to obtain financial reimbursement for the hospital or practice, after healthcare services are rendered and treatment is administered.

With the continued, overall growth of the healthcare industry, as well as a recent, and very significant change to the medical coding system, demand for medical coders and billers is strong. The new billing system, ICD-10, replaced ICD-9 in October of 2015 and quadrupled the volume of available billing codes which are used to describe a patient's diagnosis. There are tens of thousands of codes which are required to help insurance companies determine and track what the reasonable treatment and payment should be.

According to Practice Management Institute (PMI), ICD-10 increased the coding system from 14,000 to 68,000 codes, a 386 percent increase over ICD-9. This dramatic increase in codes subsequently has increased the time it takes the average medical coder to code each encounter. Under the former system (ICD-9), billing a patient encounter used to take 5 minutes on average, but now takes 17 minutes under ICD-10.

Since medical coding is primarily completed on a computer, and no direct contact with patients is required, many medical coding jobs are available as a remote job, also known as work-from-home, or telecommuting. If you would rather work from home than in a medical office setting, a work-from-home job as a medical coder could be a great option for you.

This makes remote medical coding jobs attractive options for those who need some flexibility with respect to office hours, office location, or drive time. Because many hospitals are open around the clock and on weekends and holidays, some medical coders may be expected to work some weekend or night hours also, although the majority of the schedule consists of daytime and weekday hours. Working as a remote medical coder enables a more flexible schedule which is ideal for the healthcare industry, which never shuts down completely.

Finding Work-From-Home Medical Coding Jobs

Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist with FlexJobs, provides some inside scoop on the prospects for medical coders seeking work-from-home jobs. FlexJobs is a company that helps connect telecommuting professionals with flexible work opportunities. Ms. Reynolds answered several questions regarding the job market for work-from-home medical coders, and provides some valuable advice for those who are seeking jobs as a medical coder based remotely.

How strong is the job market for medical coders who wish to work from home?

"The category of Medical and Health jobs, generally, is the top career field for telecommuting and flexible jobs on FlexJobs, and medical coding jobs make up almost 10 percent of the job listings in that category, so there are definitely a solid number of opportunities for medical coders who want to work from home."

Is there any difference in pay for work-from-home medical coding jobs vs. working in an office or medical facility as a medical coder?

"While we don't have any information specific to medical coding jobs, we have talked to numerous employers about this perception in general—that work-from-home jobs pay less than in-office jobs, and we've heard from all of them that there is no difference. Each employer [has communicated to us] that they offer their in-office and at-home employees the same salary ranges and benefits. For reference and comparison, h​ere are some explanations from employers like Sodexo, the USDA, and PwC on how they set their work-from-home salaries and benefits."

What do employers seek when hiring medical coders to work from home? Are there any differences in candidates sought for work-from-home jobs vs. onsite jobs?

"In general, we see medical coding jobs requiring multiple certifications such as CPC (Certified Professional Coder) or CCS-P, a solid understanding of ICD coding guidelines, along with anywhere from one to five years of experience depending on the role. When it comes to work-from-home coding jobs, in particular, the jobs require someone who is highly self-motivated and able to focus on the task at hand, someone who communicates well in remote settings, someone who has excellent computer skills and is comfortable troubleshooting their own technology, and someone who may be available for on-site visits for staff meetings, training, etc. That is common with many remote jobs in other fields as well—you may be able to work from home most of the time, but will be required to occasionally visit the office."

How can medical coders/job seekers differentiate a legitimate work from home opportunity from a work-from-home scam or some other type scam? How can job seekers determine high-quality opportunities from lesser job options?

"This is such an important question, because in the general work-from-home job market, there are about 60-70 scam jobs for every 1 legitimate job posting!

Job seekers should be on the lookout for job descriptions that are vague or talk very little about the actual job, and focus more on the benefits and earning potential of a position. Also, pay attention to any descriptions with lots of grammatical errors, misspellings, the use of ALL CAPS, and the use of dollar signs ($$$) to attract your attention.

Finally, job offers that seem to appear out of the blue (on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), job interviews conducted over instant messenger, or job interviews that end very quickly and result in an immediate job offer are all red flags. Other warning signs or red flags include being quickly asked for personal information like your address, bank account or social security numbers, or to pay for equipment or training."

Becoming a Medical Coder

So how does one become qualified to work as a medical coder? As Reynolds states, there typically is a certification required, which may be obtained by taking one or more course in medical coding through an accredited program, then passing a certifying exam.

According to the American Association of Professional Coders, "Medical coding is the lifeblood of all successful practices and facilities. Certified medical coders must have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology, the disease process, and clinical procedures in order to apply the correct codes that make up health records, claims, and the business side of medicine."

There are a number of organizations that provide training and certifications for aspiring medical coders, including AHIMA, AAPC, and AMBA. Typically, the certification can be obtained for a few thousand dollars, or less.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes medical billers and coders in a category of health professionals they refer to as "medical records and health information technicians." As such, the BLS states that the average salary for medical coders is $38,040 per year, which equates to about $18.29 per hour, based on a full-time, 40 hours per week schedule. However, the American Association of Professional Coders, (AAPC) quotes a much higher average annual salary of more than $50,000, and more than $25.00 per hour, which is specific to full-time, certified coders, and doesn't include similar or related job titles as the BLS data does.

Companies hiring medical coders, both on-site and work-from-home, include hospitals, doctors' offices, medical coding and billing service companies, and other medical facilities such as academic medical centers, nursing homes, urgent care centers, and more. Medical coders can identify suitable opportunities by searching healthcare job boards online or applying directly with an employer such as a hospital or medical office. Additionally, some staffing companies that specialize in healthcare office staff could also assist in identifying legitimate, lucrative jobs working from home as a medical coder.

Without medical coders, healthcare facilities cannot obtain remuneration from health insurance companies, including the largest government payors such as Medicaid and Medicare. Therefore, demand for medical coders will certainly not be declining any time in the foreseeable future.

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