By Sabrina Yousfi, MBA, RHIA, CCS, CDIP
Many roles within health information management (HM) can now be done remotely thanks to improvements in technology and the ability for healthcare organizations to effectively manage privacy and security in a virtual environment. As an HIM professional, there are a lot of reasons to love working remotely—no commute, control over your work environment, and even opportunities to advance your career by not having to work where you live. But remote work is not for everyone. There are some key traits that remote workers must have. To be successful in a remote work environment, a person needs to be:
- Strong communicator
- Technology minded
As nice as it sounds to work in sweats after simply walking down the hall to get to your “office,” working remotely can be challenging at times. Below are some tips for working effectively—and happily—as a remote HIM professional.
Tip #1: Create a Productive Workspace
A welcoming, well-equipped home office is critical to success. In addition to the basics—a large desk, supportive chair, ample storage, high-speed internet, dual monitors, and the right lighting—create a personalized workspace that you want to go to every day. Pick a space filled with natural light, add pictures of family and friends, and make your office as calming as possible to maximize productivity and minimize stress.
The only real way to keep remote work from taking over your personal life is to keep it in a separate room. Then when you are off you are off. If you do work all over the house, the lines become blurred and you mentally feel like you are always working.
Tip #2: Minimize Distractions to Maximize Productivity
Adopt the mindset that when you are in your home office, you are “on the clock” and should be focused on working, just as you would be if you worked in a facility. Additionally, help family and friends adopt that same mindset. It’s easy for them—and you—to think that since you are home, you can stop working whenever you want for a quick chat or to take care of some chores. And while sometimes the silence in a home office can be deafening, noise from music or a TV in the background can affect your concentration and comprehension, resulting in lower productivity.
Tip #3: Set a Schedule and Be Disciplined About Sticking to It
An easy way to avoid distractions is to set a schedule for your day, share it with your family and friends, and then stick to it. It’s important that you take breaks throughout the day. For example, it’s easy to work through lunch, which is not good for you physically or mentally. Develop a schedule that includes short breaks every couple of hours, plus a designated lunch break. Use that time to take a walk or fit in a workout. Read something non-work-related to give your mind a rest. Or use that time to visit with friends or do quick chores. Focusing on something else, even for a short period of time, will ultimately increase your productivity.
Tip #4: Stay Connected with Your Peers
When working remotely, it’s easy to feel like you are missing the benefits of coworkers you can bounce ideas off. But that shouldn’t be the case. If you have a question or want to get another perspective, reach out to your team as if they were sitting right next to you. Many organizations who employ remote teams will give you access to a plethora of collaboration tools and channels such as instant messaging, online chat, and video conferencing. Use them to stay connected and informed.
Working remotely can be tough when facing technology challenges. Know how to submit a help ticket to your IT department and don’t forget about your internet service provider. Know who to call if you lose internet service.
Tip #5: Have Your Reference Resources Handy
Understanding the language of medicine is difficult and at times downright cryptic. As an HIM professional, it’s critical that you know where to find answers when you encounter unfamiliar terms or concepts. Make sure you don’t waste valuable time looking for the resources by creating bookmarks in your internet browser so you can quickly access online resources. If you use code books or hard copy references, make sure they are easily accessible—and it doesn’t hurt to highlight or bookmark the sections you use most often.
In addition to standard references, there are abundant resources available through webinars, articles, and online newsletters. For example, Ciox offers free Coding Round Table webinars. Take advantage of industry resources by signing up for a few mailing lists or following companies on social media. A great place to start is with your credentialing agency, such as AHIMA, AAPC, or ACDIS.
Being successful as a remote HIM professional is easy if you set yourself up for success. Create an environment that allows you to focus on your work. Be disciplined about how you spend your time and avoid distractions. Stay connected to your peers and reach out for help. And, finally, know where to turn for help, whether it’s IT support or a codebook. Doing all these things will allow you to meet productivity and quality standards and enjoy the benefits of working from home.
Sabrina Yousfi ([email protected]) is vice president of coding for health technology company Ciox.
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