Build Physician Trust to Medical Code from Home
When a physician has a bad experience with a coding agency or past work-at-home employee, it can put a damper on your credibility when seeking their employment or contract work. The key to overcoming this obstacle, according to Melody S. Irvine, CPC, CPB, CEMC, CPC-I, CPMA, CFPC, CMRS, CCS-P, owner of Career Coders, LLC, is experience, building trust, and networking. Irvine explains, “Because the physicians know me and trust me, I am not a risk to them.”
You can’t undo other coders’ and billers’ past coding mistakes, but you can learn from them. Independent Consultant Janet Dunkerley, CPC, CPC-I, CMC, PCS, (retired senior consultant for Nuance) suggests focusing on the following areas to help you appeal to jaded potential clients and get your foot in the door to a coding-at-home position:
- Get certified through AAPC. AAPC is the largest coding organization in the United States, which automatically puts a large network of people at your disposal.
- Focus on work ethics, AAPC ethics. Show great attention to detail and make the client feel special. Feature these qualities when being interviewed.
- Offer an easy-out trial run. Set a time parameter for you to achieve the client’s desired results. If your client isn’t satisfied with your performance at the trial’s end, you can part ways with no hard feelings.
- Gain experience. The problem with some agencies is they do not hire experienced, credentialed coders. Many inexperienced coders do not understand coding concepts and basically are performing data input. Set yourself apart from them. You may have to get experience working in an office before you have the option to work from home.
- Work around your client’s schedule. One problem coders have working from home is they work around their own schedules, not the client’s. Have standardized business hours. One of the common reasons for a bad hire is that when there is a problem, the client can’t get a hold of the person in charge of the account. That’s a big turn off.
- Offer additional free services if they sign on with you. Perhaps a free mini chart audit or a free look over their managed care contracts would entice physicians or clients. It’s always nice to get something extra for nothing, and everyone is looking for more value for their money in this tight economy.
Remember: You have to pay your dues before you can be taken seriously and trusted. Irvine’s recommendation to people looking for coding-at-home work from a physician is, “Don’t expect to get into this field until you have proven yourself. Go to work for the physician in the office. After an ample amount of time, then approach the physician or office manager about working from home. You need to sell yourself.” Speaking from 30 years of experience working for physicians, Irvine “would never hire someone to work from their home unless [she] knew all about them, their work ethics, etc.”
Ensure Trust to Clients
Your potential employer is trusting in your work performance for their reimbursement. Here are ways to earn trust and market yourself in the best light:
- Be sure your resume reflects your work experience, education, certification(s), and shows you have the skills to meet the potential client/employer needs.
- Identify concerns your potential employer may have and provide solutions, suggestions, and recommendations.
- Know the coding rules, modifiers, payer requirements., etc., about the specialty(s) you want to code.
- Have a business plan and know your worth (per hour, per day, per week).
- You must be able to work independently, meet deadlines, and take on additional hour or duties when necessary to get the job done.
- Keep seeking educational opportunities, attend seminars, and keep up with the yearly changes and regulations in the healthcare industry.
- Have a professional and confident appearance.
- Be sure you can work with the potential employer’s staff and there are no personality conflicts.
Putting yourself in the potential client’s shoes is a great way to see where your areas of weakness are in regards to marketing yourself. Dunkerley said, “Think of the questions you would ask if you were looking for an outside agency to handle your coding needs, and have those answers ready, as well as good professional references.” Presentation is important. “Have a detailed portfolio of the services you offer to present to them, as well as a brochure and business card to leave with them,” Dunkerley said.
Seeking Coding-at-home Work
The best way to find coding-at-home employment or contract work for your business is through word of mouth. Dunkerley suggests seeking out home-based coding work in your area by networking with other coders in the field. “Look to your local chapters and other medical organizations,” said Dunkerley. “They are typically in the know when it comes to practices looking for people to fill a job and can point you in the right direction or give you a direct lead, and possibly a reference.”
Networking is the best way to find clients and coding-at-home work. Here are some ideas:
- Attend AAPC local chapter meetings. Talk to the other attendees, establish a relationship, and gather information.
- Talk to colleagues, working in the specialty you want to code. Gather information about new trends in that specialty.
- Attend coding seminars and talk to those who attend. Always have your resume current and ready for presentation.
- Look for jobs online through professional coding organizations, like AAPC, and post your resume
- Build a professional online presence on the AAPC employment forums, LinkedIn, and AAPC’s Facebook page.
- Talk to established billing companies who advertise in professional publications.
Don’t Rely on a “Magic List”
There isn’t an easy-to-find public list of new physicians who join a solo practice or who recently took their state exam that you can solicit coding services to. You’ll need to do the legwork to find potential clients. “You could check with the state examiner’s office,” Dunkerley said, “but I don’t think they’d be too keen on giving out a list of newly boarded physicians.” The first place she “would start is at local medical colleges as they have new graduates that may take the plunge and start a new practice. Many medical students form friendships and they may jointly venture into a practice on their own instead of joining an existing group.”
Irvine’s suggestion for finding new physicians who may need your coding services is to “contact teaching hospitals and talk to their residents.” She notes, “This is not an easy task.”
Another good place to find new physicians in your local area is through newspaper, television, and local website advertisements. Dunkerley said, “When a new physician comes to town, they have to advertise to get patients into their doors — so perhaps, a call to the new practice on the block is in order.” Once you have a place you’d like to code for, set up an appointment with the physician or office manager.
Build a Reputation of Excellence
Clients and physicians are putting their trust in you. Take medical coding or auditing from home seriously. You don’t want to be their bad experience.
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