Can You Travel As a Medical Coder?

YouTube video
  1. Medical Coding: Can You Travel?
  2. Travel Options
  3. Camper Living
  4. Online Tools
  5. Coding Jobs
  6. Topic Requests

Hello everyone. We’re ready for another Live with CCO. We’re on episode #74. These are times that we get together, where we look at topics that you sent in but we don’t have that real high-level intense looking at scenarios and cases and stuff. We’re more casual. We have a little more fun with it. And we do get a lot of questions that are fun to discuss and maybe help you think outside the box.

Medical Coding: Can You Travel?

Tonight is just like that. It is “can you travel with medical coding”. The fact is yeah, you can. So, we’re gonna discuss that and I’m gonna give you some tips. Also, I’m gonna give you some points to think about. If this is something that you’re considering the pros and the cons, is this going to be something that will work for you. Also, just know a little caveat there. There are situations that you could run into that would make this inconvenience, troublesome problematic, you know, the negatives and I tried to figure those out for you in advance. Now, we know that our world or our genre in the coding or the medical field in the coding industry has moved to more of a remote, maybe we could call it the remote era, right?

If covid did anything for us, it did allow us the opportunity to start taking advantage of electronics that have been around for quite a while and people have talked about working remote and a lot of companies did allow remote. Although, they didn’t really pull the trigger and say okay, you know, we’re gonna mostly be remote. They kind of hold on to the way they’ve always done things. That’s just a habit. That’s what we normally do and many of us know that working remotely is an option across the board for different areas in the industry because we’ve been working remotely for a long time and it worked out really well.

So, I know I’ve been, you know, probably remote for a decade and just working remotely period does have its pros and cons. It is not what most people think it is and there are a lot of advantages but there are some hiccups and some disadvantages that you should be aware of. I mean you cannot do a remote coding job from your dining room table when you have children. It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to be productive. You’re doing yourself and the company you work for a disservice. However, if you have the opportunity to travel, can you do medical coding?

Travel Options

Travel Options for a Traveling Medical Coder

Well, let’s break that down. There’s different types of concepts behind traveling and working at the same time. Now most of you, there’s so many options that when someone makes that statement can you do medical coding and travel? Well, are you talking about vacations? What are you talking about? Just going to remote jobs because we know that it has become quite an industry to be a traveling nurse. So, you find out where the positions are. You travel there. You do temp jobs which again it’s not usually like one week. No, these are contracts for like three months, six months, stuff like that and you have a recruiter or a company that you usually work for and they find out where these places are that need that temporary help. They send you out and then you come back to your home base.

However, there are other options when it comes to coding because they don’t have travel jobs that you can like travel. Do the job and come back to your home base. That’s not really an option that I’ve ever heard of personally because it’s just easy that you would do remote. Now, if you’re a contractor and you’re auditing out companies and that’s different. That would be something like hey, we’ve got a job in, I mean, I’ve got a three Clinic system in St. Louis and I’m going to go and spend a week there and I’m gonna audit them out. I’m going to live in a hotel while I do that. I’m going to go live with my cousin for a week. You know, yeah, that’s maybe an option. However, you’ve got to be pretty independent and it’s very resourceful because it does cost a lot of money to do traveling work. That’s  built into doing your job and those are usually contract bit it out jobs where you’re going to go do something external.

So, we’re not talking about that. I’m talking about a production coder, what I call in the trenches coder. If you do local work, now when I say local and traveling, that’s where I was saying that probably you would have a home base and you would go to another location, but you didn’t have to work full-time at that location. You could work from home as well. Now. I just went to a conference in Jefferson City and there was an orthopedist who came in and he brought in several people from his practice. The coders asked their coding department if they were remote or not and they said they were hybrid that their coders came in one day a week. He wanted to be able to have that personal connection with his team. So, he made sure that they came in once a week to go over questions and keep that relationship.

And I know that others have said that they come in sometimes once a month or one week out of the month, things like that. So, they haven’t completely broken away from being in-house, but they work remote more than they work in the office, but they have that home base. If that’s the case, then could you live somewhere else and come in for that one time a week or that one day a week or once a week, a month? Yes, you could. That could be a traveling option for you especially if you didn’t live too far out. So, let’s say for example where I live in the Ozarks of Missouri, it would take me if I wanted to work out of Saint Louis, it takes me about three and a half hours to drive up to St. Louis. Well, if I only had to go up one week out of the month and be in-house, sorry, I got to fly that just decided to attack me. I’m not going insane and waving my hand around. That would be doable especially if I had a place to stay or family to stay with even maybe one day a week might be doable.

Now prices of gas and things, that could make a difference there or again, you could carpool if you had people around you, but that’s kind of unlikely. So, that’s one option. I don’t think that you’ll see that as far as people living extended distances. So say, I live here back in my home area, the Ozarks, but I want to work back in Texas and or which I do do stuff in Texas still but they want me there one day a week, you know, that’s a little bit different than eight hour drive for me to get into Dallas. Now, I could fly. It’s an hour flight. But again, then you have that expense. So, those are the options that you have to weigh out and consider if you’re going to do like local jobs. That’s what I call a local job. Are you wanting to travel just on the weekends? If that’s the case, say you only have to work for 10 hour days and you are doing other things in your life. But you say, okay, Saturday. I want to work on Saturdays. That’s my travel or I’m gonna travel on the weekends but I still want to be able to work on the weekends if that’s what, you know, an option. But say your husband likes to golf, you don’t like the golf and you want to go on a golfing trip, can I work remotely at a different location? That is an option. There are situations where people will do that.

Most remote jobs, they will give you a computer and the positives in that is that they’re usually not very large computers when they do that. Even if it’s a desktop and the desktop, it can be very tiny, not any bigger than a book. However, if it is a desktop that they’ve given you to work off of versus a laptop you’re going to have to bring a monitor with you if you’re going to go somewhere for the weekend and you still want to work. Again, not a problem. Easy to do. You can get small monitors now, aren’t like the big heavy ones, you know that they used to. You can even check with where you’re staying and a lot of times you can run those into a TV, right if it’s the right type of TV.

Now that being said, I have traveled and we were going somewhere and I need to work for that week and I brought my external. One external monitor with me. I had a laptop and an external monitor. So you know, that’s something to consider. You go moving around monitors. You do have a higher chance of breaking one. Mine actually, I wrapped in towels in a box, special box to make sure that it was safe. Another option is if you’re going to be somewhere and you’re going to stay at a hotel, you know, they do have a computer room, usually, however I wouldn’t be working out of there. It’s not private. But you might be able to get a computer monitor from them. People, these you know, they usually have monitors and computers extra computers and stuff. It would be just like getting a playpen, right? So we’re we need an extra crib or whatever. Do you have a monitor? And I’m sure that could be negotiated out.

Now, that being said what about vacation say you’re going to go somewhere you’re going to be on vacation, but you’d like to stay extra days. So, you are going to work some days and so I’m going to be on a two-week vacation, but I don’t have that much PTO so I get the weekends off anyway, so I’m going to just work two days a week for two weeks and then I’ll have all those other days off. I’ve heard of people doing that again that kind of applies to going away for the weekend if you wanted to be able to continue to work. That way, you know set your laptop up. Again though, most jobs that are coding jobs you really need at least two monitors. It’s it’s extremely frustrating to do any type of coding job with one screen. If any of you guys do that, let me know because that’s not easy to do.

Justin. Let’s see, I’m looking at some of the things that says I’ve worked remotely for companies that want a very rigid nine to five Monday through Friday schedule and worked for others that don’t care what time of the day or when the week that you work and I’ve done the same thing. That is something you have to consider on a job. Very good point Justin because I did work, a oh great. I’m so glad that you passed Justin and thank you for letting us know. I have worked at jobs where they said you’ve got to get. 40 hours in we don’t care how you do it and when you do it, but you need to let us know because if we want to, you know, support desks and and help desk and stuff like that need to be available in those times sometimes, you know, but again, you can work for 10 hour days. You can work Monday through Friday. You can come in at you know, five o’clock in the morning. You can come in at 8:00, you know, whatever you want to do.

So again, That makes a huge difference and then let’s see so vacations, kind of everything from the weekend applies. If you’re going to be someplace like an extended period of time then and maybe you have an RV or another way to to get around where you can keep all of your desk area stuff secure. Although let me just state if you’re going on vacation with your family and you have children, you may again fall into the trap of thinking that you can do something when in reality it’s not going to work out the way you wanted, you know. Working with the children under your feet which I’ve done before is not easy. It becomes frustrated for you and frustrating for them because they see you. They can’t understand why you’re not available to talk to them and even if you’re in a room and you shut the door, they still know depending on their age. They still know you’re there and they, you know want to have access to you.

Another option is if you’re a snowbird. Now, if you don’t know what that means my in-laws were full-time snowbirds for quite a while. My father-in-law got to retire at a young age and the concept behind snowbirds is they live the summer months, you know, in the midwest or the North or wherever you live, but you go down south for the winter. A lot of people in Texas do that. All the southern states, especially along the coastline in the borders. They go to Florida. They go to, you know, all Texas a lot. Arizona’s a big travel spot and there’s even people that will do say southern part of Texas in the winter and in the summer, they’ll go up in living Alaska. So, it allows you to travel. Snowbirds again may have a home base. Most do but there are people that are full-time snowbirds. My in-laws did that for a lot of years and you can work at a location that way. So if you know you’re going to be six months in Texas, then you can get a job for six months in Texas or you could have a remote position and most snowbirds live in an RV of some time.

A fifth wheel. Fifth wheels are a little more steady when they’re pulled. So, full-time snowbirds usually tend to get fifth wheels versus travel trailers, which are all one piece, which I’ll let you look that up. Again, there’s not a lot of extra space in these. I think you’re 40 feet length is not gonna, about the big ones if I remember right. However, people that live like this, they have everything has a place and you put it back in its place. I know people that travel and are snowbirds and live in an RV and they work remote jobs. Just absolutely fine. But again on the next slide, I’m gonna talk about some of the pros and cons with that and things that you’ve got to be aware of. Snowbirds usually don’t travel with their children. You’re usually retirement age and as we know coders don’t necessarily retired because they then keep doing their job if they want. It’s real easy to do that physical limitations don’t fall. I have the same thing as if you’ve got a job where you’ve got to pick things up and stuff.

International. The if you travel international, you’re not going to work. The internet’s not reliable. Your connections, the time differences not going to be an option for you. Now. Is there a possibility that you could do that? Maybe you could. However, you’re really skimping on security. I just can’t see them saying you saying, you know, I’m gonna be in Italy for two weeks. I want to be able to keep working. Okay, but even how you plug things into the wall is different in Europe than the way we do here. So, you’d have to get a converter for the plug for your computer again. Can you plug in to you know? Can you get a monitor and stuff? Can you use any computer maybe but there is some areas that you have to be very mindful of and those are things like internet access.

Camper Living

Camper Living for a Traveling Medical Coder

Now we know our Laureen, the founder and owner of CCO, she lived overseas. I think she lived in Belize and turn to remember where she lived maybe it wasn’t Belize, but she lived international for a year and was able to work but again internet is not as free and accessible in other countries as you might find it here in the United States. That and also security your internet is probably not secure at all. You would definitely have to access a VPN. Does the VPN work internationally? I don’t know how they log that in. I mean at just about everything I do is off of a VPN and it’s in the computer but that could really be a problem.

Lori says I’ve seen in groups that not all employers allow Wi-Fi. So yeah, that is absolutely true, Lori. There are some that don’t allow you to use Wi-Fi you have to be plugged in. Now, you can use secure hotspots but that’s the thing. The key word there is secure hotspots, right? Not all. Oh, let’s see VPN works anywhere internet works as long as the firewall isn’t blocked. Good point. Okay, that’s that’s good to know but These are things that you have to be aware of before you decide to hit the road and go out there and and start working remotely or while you’re traveling.

Now, camper living. Let’s let’s talk about some of these bullet points. One, we’ve already talked about internet. And again, I would just say International is not going to work. Don’t think that that’s going to be an option plus it would have if you work for a company like a hospital system or something I’m sure that you would have to get that approved to be able to. They’re just so many compliance issues that I I would think that would be a problem. So, just strike that off as too heavy of a pain point. But if you wanted to live in say a fifth wheel or an RV or even a condo someplace, you know, that and in travel then internet is number one priority. Do they have internet? Is it a mass internet where you have to log in like you would at a hotel because if that’s the case then somebody else can come in and tap in to your information. I’ve seen them do that on shows that we’re talking about cyber security and they said if you’re in a hotel room and you tap into their internet, then, you know, the guy three rooms down can see everything that you’re looking at. So again, very careful about security.

Now, you could though have a hotspot. I used a Verizon Pack for a very long time. It was secure however it cost a lot of money so be very mindful of the cost and the expense that follows using a remote plug to access internet. Electricity has to be reliable. If you are going to travel in an RV of whatever type, you’re plugging into their electricity and that usually never has an issue but there are times that there are issues that could be not within your control. Whereas if you live in a house or you live in an apartment someplace that you’re living full-time, the thought that you’re electricity is going to go out would only be if there was a storm, right? That you’re relying on somebody that is providing electricity to multiple spots and that’s doesn’t have a power grid the same setup that you know an apartment complex does so be mindful of that privacy. Not just the fact that you’re internet has to be secure. But remember we’re talking about looking and accessing legal documents on our monitor.

So,. if you have an external monitor that like I do that’s like 27 inch. I don’t know It’s huge and somebody comes over to say hey, by the way, you know, can you guys want to come out to the barbecue pit tonight? We’re gonna all get together and everything and you say yeah, that’d be great. You can’t have that. You’re in a smaller space. They can’t be looking at your screens, right? That’s private information that you have up on that screen. You’re not even when you work at home, my monitors and stuff are all turned away from my door, at the window that I have. Everything is in a position to where if somebody walks into my office to talk to me they can’t see what I’m working on. And then also, that being said them just walking by your window, right, you’re in a small camper. I mean, they’re bigger but you like to open up the windows and stuff. Pull the curtains and stuff. And if you have a big giant monitor, you have to be very mindful of privacy. People seeing your screens, papers laying out that you might have a patient information on can’t be doing that.

Yeah, Lori makes a comment here that says wondering if anyone out there is a full-time RV or and works remote. Do you have any issues with internet or do you have a portable modem? I would like to hear if you do or don’t I know that Don Self, someone that we know in the CCO knows well. He, they have a an RV that they spend a lot of time in. So he, I haven’t asked him but I’m curious about what they use for VPN. VPNs again. All of my computers that I have have vpns. The setup and there is criteria and things that have to be done and you need a VPN whenever you’re dealing with medical documentation.

Security. What if you have a laptop? What if somebody stole your laptop or the company laptop while you were out, you know? You got to be mindful of that.  More opportunities for people to do that versus if you’re working from home.

Space. Do you have enough space to work in? Again, I got to have two monitors. There’s no way that I could see everything that I need to see. I don’t like flipping through pages. I can’t remember what I look at from one moment to even splash screens. I got to be able to see that. So, do you have enough space for you to have a dedicated work area? And if you live alone, you know, yeah that may be fine. But if you don’t then if you have a spouse or even your pet, you don’t want to have an area that your cat could jump on top of your laptop, knock it anything over. Crack a monitor, you know, and you know, how what they like to do or a dog’s tail is knocking your stuff over. Be very mindful of space.

Another good point is the address. Now, there’s pros and cons but when you live in and multiple months, there’s things that snowbirds do. A lot of times, they’ll have their mail forwarded to a central location meaning, you know, when I’m going to be living in Texas that it comes in to the campground and they have a dedicated mail space for me or I have the post office hold my mail for six months. You know or you PO box wherever you’re staying because you can pay for that month to month. But why is this something that you have to be aware of? Because your company may need to mail you things of your most of your W forms are electronic but not always and if you’re not going to be in one location over extended to period of time then an address could be concerning have a central address location or if you’re going to be, you know, two months here and then you’re gonna be two months there and and so on and so forth.

So oh, this is a good point for traveling. The only options for internet are local stores, like Starbucks mobile hotspots through cellular companies like AT&T or AT&T and T-Mobile or satellite internet like Viasat and Starlink and they’re not as reliable, right? So if you’re having to wait for things or you know, I’ve had Viasat for a while. It can be a problem and public networks aren’t private. So again, be mindful of that.

Online Tools

Online Tools for a Traveling Medical Coder

One of the advantages though, I think I touched my thing is that when you start working remote, you become more and more reliable on going paperless. And so, I can tell you that I do have my coding manuals. I can’t give them up. I get them every year. However I hardly use them anymore because I have an encoder. I use Find-a-Code. So, the advantage of working remote is that you find your online tools and they’re always updated. They are always online so if I were someplace where I need to do some research and I wanted to go to the library and do some work not coding out charts, but say I need to do some research and stuff or work on a presentation, I could do that and easily access my Find-a-Code from anywhere.

And as you guys know, I use Find-a-Code exclusively and it was really funny because I was talking to a student today and I was kind of showing them through the course. They signed up for the PBC course They hadn’t got their manuals yet and I said well now you can go in and use the free addition of Find-a-Code. And so, I brought it up on the screen and I was showing them what that wasn’t. They had actually remembered when they were a nurse using Find-a-Code and I thought that was funny. I was like, oh, yeah use that all the time. Now, there is again. Advantage is getting used to those online tools at going paperless and not having to have all of those, you know, carrying around all those coding manuals and other books. But again, that also means you need more screens.

Yeah, good point. VPN makes any connection private. That is ideal. Those IT things that if you want to travel and your employer saying, oh, I don’t know how about security and so on and so forth. That means you need to do the research ahead of time and let them know this type of information about a VPN making everything secure or otherwise they’re just gonna sweep you into the right and say no I don’t think we’re ready. You know, we’re we wouldn’t like for you to do that. So have all of that information for them to let them know that you can work securely. Also, Find-a-Code, if you guys decide that you need an encoder. I would check out with them. You can get it. Check out them. You know, we love working with them and even before they set up this discount link for us I was using Find-a-Code.

Coding Jobs

Coding Jobs for a Traveling Medical Coder

Now, what type of jobs can you find remote? You can work full-time or part-time and this time of the year just letting you know is the big draw for risk adjustment jobs part-time. They just need to most of the time you just need a credential. They’ll hire CPC-A’s and you got to pass a pre-employment exam. If you can pass that then they’re willing to work you in the past. Way back in the day, over a decade ago, when I first started doing that, they made you go through training that you had to do the training live. Now, most of that are not done live anymore. They have it all recorded for you and then people there to support you as you get started. So that’s even more appealing for people who have a job and want to do a side job or part-time job remotely especially in Risk adjustment, you know, and they’ll start them like 20 to 40 hours a week. So, full-time or part-time.

There are lots of contract jobs out there and the difference between being an employee versus being a contract employee is the main thing is who pays your taxes. So, if that is concerning to you then and contract jobs usually have a start and finish date where as you know, if you’re an employee you don’t. But taxes can be a real problem. Now if you’re traveling around, you don’t have the overhead expenses that most people have and you know, that’s fine. But always keep in mind how that affects your taxes. Also if your contract, they got to be able to mail you stuff documents and things.

Hour per chart, a lot of remote jobs, especially production jobs, they will either pay you by the hour or by the chart and when they do per chart like for risk adjustment, not all charts are equal. Now, I’m not talking about encounters. I’m talking about charts. So with risk adjustment, depending if you’re working for an MA plan, for example, you could have three cases that you do or you could bring up three things in the queue. They each have under 30 pages of documents or the next one could have 600 pages and the next one can have a thousand pages. So, what they end up doing is paying you per chart. Not per encounter and then the ones that have a page limit of like under 300 you make this amount and if it’s over 300, then you make this amount and it can be anywhere from like $6 on this one or like $12for higher pages. So, that is something that you need to have under your belt.

Now, Beth asks, do you have to have training for risk coding positions? Yes, you have to know how to do risk adjustment coding usually but they will hire people that have been trained and risk adjustment that are CPC-As. There are not this close to the end of the year will they train people with no experience but further earlier in the year. They’ll hire people that don’t have risk adjustment but this is now when they’re running down their contracts and they’ve, you know, got like 10,000 charges that they’ve got to have coded and so they hire people to work temporary.

Melissa says I travel in Camp often with my VPN hotspot and Web Boost Travel or Web Home Suite. I can work while on the road and while camping without internet interruptions. Melissa, thank you for sharing that because those are some names that other people can do some research in. I’m curious Melissa if you’re willing to share how much it costs you for a month for your hotspot and Web Boost Travel because that would be something that would be helpful.  

Also note here they’re saying virtual mailbox companies will forward your mail. That is exactly what my in-laws did that were snowbirds. They had the Post Office Mail hold their mail so that they didn’t get like a little bit of mail at a time and they would say hold all of our mail for one month and then the virtual company would get the mail and then it would be shipped to wherever they’re at. So that way if they chose to move from one location to another, which they had their time usually planned out. But if they said hey, know what we’re going to go and spend two weeks in this one particular area and they just call up the virtual company and say I know that you’re supposed to be mailing our mail on the fifth. Don’t do that. Wait and don’t mail it to that location until the 25th, you know, and so virtual mailbox companies are very helpful.

Again per hour per chart, often depending on who you work for and what type of a job you do but the advantages of doing it per chart is it kind of takes the burden off you because if you’re slow in the beginning you’re not going to do as many encounters or charts. And so therefore, you’re not feeling like you’re a burden to them as you’re learning and getting that experience under your belt and if you’re really good, then you can knock them out and make good money compared to others. So again, there’s advantages and disadvantages. Now the last thing to note is that again jobs on site and that is just to remind you that there are some where you do have to come into a location once in a while or you could get a temp filling job. They do have them for coding if you say hey, I want to go spend some time in Tennessee and you have the ability to take off and do that. Then there might be a temp job or where you can travel and live in your RV and work at that particular place, you know.

A lot of interesting opportunities that you may not have thought about without thinking outside the box because not all of us are in a time in our life where we don’t have children or home or at home or people that were caring for that we can just scoop up everything and take off and be on the road but there’s a lot of people that do it and so it is actually an option for you. Melissa says “my hot spots 18 and I’m not sure the cost”. WeBoost can be around $300, but you can get a much better price by watching on eBay. Good to know and I do know that when I was using Verizon, if I knew I wasn’t going to need as much I could taper that down and per month and say well I’m going to use only this much but then next time next month hey bump it up. I’m gonna get you know 40 gigs or whatever they were called. I can’t remember.

I was just in the Smokies last week in my WeBoost. Worked beautifully. That’s great to know because again, there are places where it’s just dead. You can’t get internet. My mother’s getting ready to go to a Harvest Festival and she was talking about using her square on her phone for people purchasing things and she said but last year our phones didn’t work. So the square wouldn’t work. So if you can’t get the internet in a particular place, it might be a problem. But if you have something like that then it would work for you. I’m sure.

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