For many people interested in medical billing and coding careers, the prospect of being able to work from home either as a private contractor or as an at-home employee is one of the most appealing aspects of the profession. At-home jobs in medical billing and coding offer professionals a degree of flexibility to balance their personal lives and careers that is not usually available to billers and coders who work in offices or hospitals.
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Although there are currently no official statistics available that provide the exact number of professionals in medical billing and coding who work from home, related government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that stay-at-home medical billers and coders are in the minority, making up no more than a third and maybe as little as 10% of all positions in the field.
The number of healthcare providers and insurance companies turning to private contractors as a cost-cutting alternative to traditional employees is clearly growing, however, and it is likely that this trend combined with the popularity of at-home jobs will continue to increase the number of these positions in the coming years. Nevertheless, balancing this trend is the fact that work from home jobs present a number of benefits and drawbacks that deter many professionals from pursuing this career path.
Options for Working from Home as a Medical Biller and Coder
Although it is technically possible to begin a career in medical billing from home, most experts in the field say that this is difficult. Medical billing from home jobs are rare compared to medical coding from home jobs because they often require face-to-face interaction with patients, physicians and other healthcare staff.
Veterans in the field suggest that professionals who would like to work from home should first spend time in a traditional workplace environment. Working as an employee for a few years allows rookie medical billing and coding specialists to sharpen their technical skills and acquire an overview of the field as well as to gain the confidence of their employer and build a network of potential clients.
Once a professional has achieved medical billing and coding certification and spent time working in the field, there are two main possibilities for working from home, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:
Medical Billing and Coding Employee from Home
Many hospitals, doctor’s offices or even specialized medical billing and coding companies in the healthcare industry find that their medical billing and coding employees can carry out most or all of their work from home.
While most employers will not hire you straight out of school to work from home, some may provide this option to highly competent billers and coders who have proven their technical skills and work ethic. In most cases where working from home is allowed or encouraged, it will be on a hybrid basis, meaning that employees are allowed to complete part of their work in the office and part from home.
The availability of work from home jobs in this capacity varies on a case-by-case basis and depends entirely on the employer’s wishes. Professionals who think they might be interested in this pathway should ask potential employers up front about the possibility of this option.
Medical Billing and Coding as a Private Contractor or Consultant
Independent contractors and medical billing and coding consultants are self-employed specialists who typically conclude contracts of service with larger clients like insurance companies or medical billing and coding firms. As a private contractor, you will agree to deliver a specified amount of work by a fixed date. Most independent contractors and consultants choose to set up an office at home, and the most successful of them may even hire a secretary to keep up with the clerical aspects of the work.
It is important for those interested in this option to remember that working as an independent medical billing and coding contractor or consultant also requires entrepreneurial skills in addition to technical skills. They must possess the motivation and business savvy to find, secure and complete contracts in a timely manner.
Professionals interested in becoming a private contractor or consultant should be aware that contractors are typically expected to supply their own equipment for the job, including a reliable computer and Internet connection, relevant software, fax machines and printers.
Finally, it is important to remember that after a contract is fulfilled, neither the private contractor nor the client is required to continue working with the other party, meaning that a successful career as a private contractor requires you to establish a stable client base.
The Pros and Cons of Medical Billing and Coding from Home
Many fraudulent websites as well as legitimate for-profit online schools have noticed the growing number of people who want to work from home and now place special emphasis on advertising the benefits and ease of medical billing and coding from home. While the possibility does indeed exist and presents a number of advantages, professionals interested in work from home medical coding jobs should have a realistic outlook on both the pros and cons of this professional path.
The freedom to work when and where they want is for most people the most appealing aspect of working from home in any profession. Professionals with families or who simply prefer working irregular hours are not bound to the typical 9 to 5 office hours held by most doctor’s offices or businesses. Though there are always deadlines to meet and the degree of flexibility may vary, work from home jobs leave professionals free to shift their work hours around, working mornings, evenings, nights or weekends depending on their lifestyle and preferences.
- The Opportunity to Earn More
Another appealing aspect of working from home is that efficient contractors with a good head for business are sometimes able to earn a considerably higher income than average medical billing and coding salary. Particularly larger organizations like insurance companies and firms specializing in medical information management are sometimes willing to pay a premium price to a contractor who has demonstrated quality work and reliability.
- Unreliable Income
Though it is possible to earn more money if you work from home, it is just as possible that you would earn less than a medical biller and coder who has steady full-time employment. Independent contractors who lack business sense, perform poorly on jobs or rush into at-home work without first securing a stable client base may find themselves without contracts and without a reliable paycheck.
- Managing All Aspects of the Business
While traditional medical billers and coders are able to focus on their core competencies and professional skills, independent contractors and consultants performing medical billing and coding jobs from home are also responsible for making sure that every aspect of their business is taken care of. In addition to keeping their office supplies stocked and in working order, contractors must ensure that their work agreements are legally valid, follow-up on clients who are reluctant to pay and even make sure that their home office does not violate municipal zoning laws.