Four Steps to Becoming a Home Based Medical Coder

There are four main steps to becoming a successful home based medical coder.

~ Education 
~ Certification 
~ Experience 
~ Home Based Medical Coding Career

These steps are the difference between the individuals who dream of working from home and the individuals who do. While the steps may seem simple, each one is very important and skipping just one of them can change your outcome dramatically.

By investing the time and being dedicated to each step, an individual with no prior experience in medicine can achieve a rewarding home based coding career.

Education

Becoming a home based medical coder starts with proper education. Although the industry itself does not require any specific education prior to becoming a medical coder employers do. In order to be considered a candidate for a medical coding job one of two specific certifications must be obtained. Education should be centered around preparing individuals for these certification examinations.

While many educational establishments offer a myriad of coding and billing courses, degrees, and certificates many either partially prepare individuals or require an over abundance of unnecessary educational courses.

When considering enrolling in an educational course ensure the following:

~Education should be focused mainly on medical coding and incorporate only a small portion of medical billing.
~The course should specify that it prepares individuals for CPC certification through the AAPC or for CCS certification through AHIMA (any other certification will not be recognized in the medical coding community)
~Courses should total around 80 contact hours
~Education should focus 80% of class time on the CPT medical coding book and the other 20% on both ICD-9-CM and HCPCS books v
~Basic anatomy and medical terminology should either be covered in the class or be a pre-requisite (these should be the only pre-requisites however)

Keep in mind that courses requiring a two year commitment for an associate’s degree can be very beneficial but are certainly not required. Obtaining coding certification and achieving a successful home based medical coding job is certainly possible by taking the right six month coding course.

Certification

The proper education course will fully prepare it’s students to sit for one of two medical coding certification exams. While more than two types of certification exist the only ones recognized and sought after by employers nationwide are the CPC and CCS certifications.

The CPC certification stands for Certified Professional Coder and it is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The second type of certification is the CCS, which stands for Certified Coding Specialist. This certification is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Each certification requires individuals to sit for and pass their lengthy exam (5 – 6 hours). These exams are not cheap and can be very overwhelming when not prepared properly. Finding an educational course that prepares individuals specifically for these exams is essential.

When considering which of the two certifications to obtain it is important to base your decision on both experience and education.

The CPC offered by the AAPC is the best starting point for individuals who have minimal or no medical coding experience. This exam is slightly easier and offers examinees two attempts for one price. It also caters more to individuals without experience (who are labeled “apprentices”) by providing them with job opportunities and externships.

The CCS certification through AHIMA was originally created for individuals who already have two years or more of medical coding experience. While some individuals without prior coding knowledge have managed to pass this particular exam on their first attempt, many do not. This exam is also slightly more expensive and offers examinees only one attempt to pass.

It is strongly encouraged for individuals just starting out in the medical coding field to first obtain the CPC certification through the AAPC, work in the medical coding field for some time, and then if they desire dual certification attempt sitting for the CCS certification through AHIMA.

Experience

Once a recognizable medical coding certification has been obtained (the CPC or CCS) finding a medical coding job is the next step.

As with most careers, individuals with prior coding experience will find this step easier than those without prior experience, but that does not mean it cannot be done.

It is important at this step not jump ahead to step four either. Becoming a home based medical coder requires experience for many reasons. Applying for such positions right away will only lead to disappointment.

Being quick and accurate are what make home based medical coding jobs lucrative, this is because most coders are paid per. chart coded. It is better to learn speed and accuracy while being paid hourly at a physician’s office while you are slow and full of questions and then transition when fully prepared.

Since many employers require several years worth of experience, finding that first coding job can be tricky. Try not to become discouraged and make sure you are willing to accept entry level positions.

Many medical coders gain their first few years of experience by working as an extern, taking a part time position, or accepting front desk, secretarial, or medical record positions and then moving into a medical coding or billing role.

Attending AAPC local chapter meetings is also a great way to network with other local coders, learn about job leads, and possibly gain an internship.

Since the medical billing and coding field is so vast you will continually be learning. Never turn down an opportunity to ask questions or offer assistance. This type of experience will be incredibly valuable when you are a home based medical coder working by yourself.

Home Based Medical Coding Career

Most home based medical coders have 2-3 years of medical coding experience. Since individuals working from home work unsupervised and without other associates it is important that they have a full knowledge of coding and billing practices, networking abilities, self discipline and motivation.

While it is becoming more common for physicians to allow an established medical biller or coder in their practice to work from home at times, it is still not a standard practice.

Most individuals who hold a home based medical coding job are independent contractors. This means that the medical coder has signed an agreement with a larger organization that will provide the work and pay for the coder’s abilities.

As an independent contractor you are considered self employed. Items such as computer equipment, medical coding books, and office supplies will most likely need to be furnished by you, but can also be considered a tax deduction when filing a schedule 10-40 at the end of the year. Benefits such as medical, dental, 401K contributions, and paid vacation usually are not offered through contracts either and also are the responsibility of the medical coder.

Contracting with a company does allow you to receive a steady flow of work and a reliable paycheck from the comfort of your own home. This also saves on items such as gas, car wear, work clothes, eating out, and offers large scheduling flexibility.

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