Working from home and being paid well for it is a goal of many individuals. While searching out ways to accomplish this goal many have stumbled upon a niche field in medical administration called “medical coding”.
Medical coding positions are present in hospitals, physician offices, insurance companies, home health agencies, and just about anywhere medical services are being provided and billed for. In addition to traditional hourly employment in this field there are also a number of opportunities to do this type of work from the comfort of your own home.
A standard, hourly, medical coding job is what is usually advertised in the classifieds and help wanted ads. These positions usually require individuals to be present at a specific location, punch a time clock, etc. Employees are usually paid at an hourly rate and receive benefits such as paid vacation, health insurance, and paid holidays.
In contrast, most work from home medical coding jobs are contract positions. This means that a larger company who has multiple clients farm out the work into smaller portions on an individual basis. Individual medical coders who are awarded a portion of this work are called independent contractors and are considered self employed.
Most often an independent contractor will agree to receive a specified amount of work each week, code it within a specific time frame, maintain a certain accuracy standard, and in return are usually paid on a “per. chart coded” basis. While such positions usually do not include benefits such as paid vacation, medical insurance, and paid holidays it does offer an extremely flexible schedule and the ability to work from home, which saves on travel, attire, and other related expenses.
An independent contractor can expect companies that award coding contracts to provide the work and coding software while they will be responsible for providing the computer hardware, internet connection, and medical coding books. Independent contractors are also responsible for withholding their own taxes since their payments are made on their gross earnings. At year end individuals will receive a 10-99 instead of a W-2 and will need to file schedule 1040. This can also be a benefit since work related expenses such as coding books, internet, computer, etc. can be considered a tax deduction.
Most independent contraction positions are available for a specific specialty, such as pediatrics, emergency medicine, or dermatology. These positions normally require that contractors hold either a CPC or CCS coding credential and have a minimum of three years of coding within their specialty.
Each coding specialty has its own bar rate and standard pay rate. These are important to know when discussing a contract. For example, when coding emergency medicine the standard bar rate 25 charts an hour and the average pay rate is between.65 and.75 cents per. chart for professional coding. Based on these numbers and an average work week of 40 hours (for full time) or 20 hours (for part time) an independent contractor can choose the number of charts to contract for each week based on their own speed.
For example, individuals who code the standard 25 charts an hour and only wish to work 4 hours per day (that’s a 20 hour week) should contract for 500 charts per week and could expect to gross between $352 and $375 each week. The faster an individual can code the more money they can make, so an individual who can code 50 charts per hour can either choose to contract for full time work and receive full time earnings while working only part time hours, or they can choose to contract for a large number of charts and increase their earnings.
While speed is important to an independent contractor’s earning potential accuracy is equally important. Most companies who award coding contracts stipulate that the medical coder must maintain a certain accuracy in their coding in order to keep their contract. The accuracy rate usually falls between 96% – 99%. Charts coded by the medical coder are routinely audited by the company to ensure their rates are being maintained.
Prior to being considered for a work from home medical coding job there are several things one must do. The first is to earn either a CPC or CCS coding credential. While there are multiple coding credentials that are awarded by numerous organizations these are the only two that are commonly recognized among employers nationwide.
The CPC stands for Certified Professional Coder, and is awarded by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The second credential, the CCS, stands for Certified Coding Specialist and it is awarded by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Each of the two credentials can be earned by sitting for and passing the 5 – 6 hour coding exam. Proper education prior to sitting for either exam is strongly encouraged and selecting the right organization to prepare you should be done carefully.
Once an individual has earned either their CPC or CCS credential the next achievement should be to gain some on the job coding experience. This is required by most companies that award independent coding contracts. It is also more beneficial for a medical coder to start out this way as well.
Succeeding as an independent contractor is dependent upon both speed and accuracy and a new coder will be neither. It is best to earn an hourly paycheck when starting out when you can code as slow as you need to and you are able to ask as many questions as you may have to.
Once an individual has gained two to three years of on the job medical coding experience they will be considered for most independent coding contract positions. The next step is to find such companies that offer these types of positions or contracts.
Most internet searches for “at home medical coding jobs” and “medical coding jobs from home” usually return more solicitation or articles than job leads. It is better to use search phrases such as “medical coding independent contractor” or “remote medical coding jobs”. Attending local AAPC chapter meetings is also a good way to hear of such opportunities from the local coding community. In addition, an individual may try calling medical coding organizations and ask if the positions they are hiring for have the ability to become remote.
Examples of some companies who hire independent medical coding contractors are avia code, maxim health information services, and med data.