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Telecommuting as a Medical Coder

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Medical Coders at UnitedHealth Group have the skills and abilities that are truly essential to ensure we are helping people live healthier lives. With breadth and depth of medical coder services, our employees work with patients in a diverse assortment of care settings.

 

One of the major benefits of becoming a medical coder at UnitedHealth Group is the potential to provide coding expertise as a telecommuter. Telecommuting is more than just a simple work-from-home office. It’s a benefit that allows flexibility for life’s curve balls. Today, we will hear from one of UnitedHealth Group’s valued medial coders, Shelly B. Shelley’s telecommuting experience has helped her grow professionally, while allowing her the flexibility to be there for her family in a way she couldn’t if working in a hospital setting. Read her insightful Q & A below to see how telecommuting can benefit your career and enrich your daily life.  

 

Q: Tell us about yourself, what is your role at UHG?  

A: My name is Shelley B. and I am a remote medical coding specialist with UnitedHealth Group from Idaho. I have a differently abled child that I have been able to raise on my own while having the opportunity to work at home! It truly has been a blessing with him really being able to grow while having his mom at home.

Q:  When and where did your medical coding career start?

A: I started my medical coding career in 1999 working for a Medical Center in Idaho.  I was actually doing my clinical rotation at the same hospital at the end of my college career.  After leaving this hospital, I received an email from the Health Information Management (HIM) Director asking me what I would be doing for the next few years.  I thought it was a funny question but after talking with her, she offered me a job.  This was a wonderful start to an amazing career.

Q: How long have you been a medical coder with UnitedHealth Group? 

A: On June 25, 2016 I celebrated my 15 year anniversary with UnitedHealth Group.

Q: We know you’ve worked in a hospital as a Medical Coder, what type of work environment do you work in now?  

A: I have been a telecommuter for 14 years.

Q: Wow, that’s quite a long time working from home! Do you enjoy telecommuting? 

A: I really enjoy telecommuting. However when I first became a telecommuter, I didn’t truly learn how to separate myself from the work. My work computer sat in a room next to my resting area for a number of years, which made it difficult to disconnect.  I wasn’t able to take vacations without checking to see if the work was getting done. 

Now, I don’t even leave the computer on and I am able to get my 8 hours done and leave my work “at the office”.

Q: How do you make your home office space motivational in order to not be distracted?  

A: Well one of the things that I have to do is coordinate care for my son. I have people come in and take him out in the community so I can work without distraction.  He is 21 years old and we have a great community program that allows him to leave the home.  

To make my office motivational, I have painted the room a nice calm color and I have decorations all over with motivational sayings, family pictures, pictures of things that I like the most: butterflies and hummingbirds.  It is really a blessing to be able to work from home and keeping busy is the key.

Q: As a telecommuter how do you stay connected with your team virtually?

A: Most of my communication with my team is done via email, telephone or Jabber (internal messaging platform) instant communication.

Q: Shelley, since you have experience working in different work environments, what are some of the benefits of working in a hospital setting?

 A:  I have worked in a hospital setting and remotely and one of the key tools to working in a hospital setting is that your manager is available almost instantly and you can have that face-to-face communication.   Another positive is that coders can work together to figure out tricky coding scenarios. That option isn’t available as much working remotely. Not to say that the information isn’t there but there is typically a longer turn-around time.

Q: And what are the benefits working as a telecommuter?

 A: When I first was asked to work as a telecommuter, I was unsure that it would be the right fit for me.  You have to be disciplined about your work and forget that the space outside of your office is your home. You also have to have confidence that you will complete your work in the allotted time. Typically I will use a timer to mark the hours to ensure that I am not working under or over. 

Q: What are some things your management does to help you feel part of the team as a telecommuter?

A: Probably three quarters or more of the staff are telecommuters so we all are included in major teleconferences that UnitedHealth Group provides for us.  We also have quarterly meetings and team meetings with our current supervisors. This really helps them keep us in the team atmosphere as much as they can.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A:  The nice thing about telecommuting is that I have the flexibility to set my own hours. I just have to ensure that my work will be completed during the 24 hour period. 

I typically start my day between 6 and 7 a.m. I work 4 hours, take a ½ hour lunch and then work the remaining 4 hours.  During this window of time all of my meetings are also included.  I have enough experience and flexibility, that I can pretty much code in many different sites so my managers can share my coding experience as support during my day.

Q: Any recent changes in the medical coding field you’ve had to overcome? 

A: The biggest change to happen across the coding field is the ICD-10 transition that happened in October of 2015.   This is one area that put all coders on the same playing field.  It was new to everyone so we all had to learn together.  I have been fortunate as I was able to become an AHIMA approved ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer. I feel that I was more than ready for ICD-10 to happen with the support of my team.

Q: Speaking of coming together, how do ensure high performance on your team?

A:  Performance is very important! High performance as a medical coder can lead to the option of becoming a telecommuter.

Performance also helps with delivering on your responsibilities. Most coding sites have drop schedules deadlines that are set up and coders are expected to keep.  There are charts per hour criteria and is necessary to meet these drop schedules.  Being open to coders’ needs and responsibilities is important to keep coders motivated and performing well.  Sometimes situations arise which cause coders to not meet their productivity schedule deadlines.  Having a manager being able to help remove those obstacles, helps keep everyone happy. 

Q: Where can others learn about Medical Coding positions with UnitedHealth Group?

 

A: You can learn everything you need to know and explore Medical Coding careers here.

 

Also, don’t forget that you can talk live with UnitedHealth Group clinical recruiters Tuesdays & Wednesdays

11:00 am - 1:00 pm and 10:00 am - 12:00 pm CT for any additional questions on a medical coding career!

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