5 Minutes with... Tracy A Sparks, CPC

BC Advantage (BCA): How and why did you get into this industry?

Tracy A Sparks, CPC (T.A.S): I was at an impasse in my life and was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do; I was topped out pay wise in my current career and started to look around. I had narrowed it down to either paralegal and medical coding and billing. I chose medical coding and found a school here in San Antonio and with some assistance from the state signed up and began the journey. I now know that I made the right decision and haven't looked back.

BCA: How did you get your first remote coding position?

T.A.S: I was working at a local facility doing contract coding and was called and asked if I would be interested in auditing from home, I had sent my resume to a company that had then forwarded it to this company. I  took it not knowing what it would all be about, it was a disaster. I learned from that experience that it can be very difficult to get along with people through only emails and phone calls. I didn't know them and they didn't know me and when personality conflicts happen online you don't have a prayer. I then went back to working outside of the house again.

BCA: What do you consider to be the advantages/disadvantages of being a remote coder?

T.A.S: Well in this day and age and the cost of gas the biggest advantage is you get to hang onto more of your money. I also like making my own schedule and not having to deal with distractions that occurs working in a busy office. Some of the disadvantages are you are isolated from your comrades and if you don't work your schedule out properly you can end up with less free time for your life. When system issues happen and you're working outside the home you are usually paid for it but when your home they tend to think that you can just change your schedule and you can get the work done some other time and usually you are not paid for downtimes. So it is important to let things like this roll off your back and suck it up.

BCA: In your opinion, what qualities should a remote coder possess?

T.A.S: A remote coder has to be disciplined, organized and above all comfortable in their coding skills. It is very easy to put things off when you are home as you will get distracted several times a day. If you think it will be great to stay home with your kids and work from home well it may be a disaster if you do not discipline yourself to make your work a priority. If you leave it until the last minute the quality of work you produce in a hurry will be poor. Being organized is very important and also having a quiet, designated place to work is a must; it should be away from busy places in the house. It is also important to let the household know that just because you're at home working doesn't mean you can now take care of the things that you were unable to take care of when you worked outside of the home. There may be a few things you can do but they can tend to pile it on you and it becomes very distracting. Lastly, you need experience in coding on the outside before you even think about remote coding. If you don't, you will most likely fail. Most companies require 2 or more years of coding experience.

BCA: Is remote coding for everyone?

T.A.S: I feel that remote coding is the way it will eventually be with EMR being pushed on most medical facilities. I feel that remote coding can be for everyone as long as you obtain the above qualities.

BCA: What do you consider to be the challenges of your position?

The challenges I have had are communicating with peers and managers, either through emails and phone calls. Emails can be interpreted differently than you may mean them to be. Unfortunately, people can tend to put an emotion or tone in an email that may or may not be there. This can be a big problem so you need to watch how you portray yourself when dealing with people when you communicate.

BCA: Do you hold any certifications? If so, which ones and why did you choose them? If not, why have you decided not to get certified. Your pros and cons in your opinion?

T.A.S: I hold only one certification as I feel if you obtain anymore it just cost you more money and you have to have more CEU's at a cost also. I have several friends that have multiple certifications and they can't use them as they run into the "no experience" rule and have felt it was a waste.

BCA: What are some of the issues you face as a remote coder in regards to compliance and legal issues (Example HIPAA) etc?

T.A.S: I have had no issues with this area and have not heard of any from the company I work for. You have to follow the same rules you do working outside the home, keep the information private and don't leave any records open when eyes are around.

BCA: Describe a typical workday.

T.A.S: I treat my workday the same as I did when I worked outside the home the only thing missing is not having to be up and ready to walk out the door by a certain time. I usually start at about the same time and end at about the same time everyday when I work.

BCA: Where should someone start if they want to become a remote coder?

T.A.S: I would suggest just putting your resume out there and play the waiting game; it will come around sooner or later.

BCA: What words of advice would you give to other professionals and new industry members about becoming a remote coder?

T.A.S: If you want to become a remote coder then make it a goal and go for it, it by far outweighs going to an office every day. Just be ready to make it your priority if and when you do become one and it will work out and be rewarding.