Updated on: March 31, 2020

Working Remotely in Healthcare Administration during Challenging Times

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Original story posted on: March 30, 2020

Many healthcare professionals have had to switch to working remotely from home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people around the world. Travel restrictions and new rules on large public gatherings have changed the daily routines of millions. Over the past few weeks, many healthcare professionals and my colleagues have had to switch to working remotely from home on the fly, because there was not a clear contingency plan in place should something like this ever happen.

While our team here at ICD10monitor.com is accustomed to working remotely, these past few weeks have really clarified what successful and sustainable remote work requires. Our story this week will give you some Talk Ten Tuesdays pro-tips on working from home.

Stay well and healthy.

This move to remote work is all about protecting our physical health by minimizing contact with the virus. That much everyone understands. What is less obvious is that working where you live can create its own kind of stress. Taking time to exercise, eat well, and enjoy real downtime away from screens are all essential to maintaining mental well-being while working from home.

Go all in.

It can be tempting to put things off while working remotely. But teams that thrive remotely find ways to do just about everything online. If you’ve scheduled one-on-ones, keep them. If you’ve planned big meetings, hold them. If you’re ready to brainstorm an upcoming presentation, jump on that video call.

Create a designated area for your workspace or what you may call your home office, even if you don’t have an extra bedroom or a specific office in your home. Since you are in healthcare, it has to be a space you can close off, that is HIPAA-compliant (protecting the privacy of any patient information you may receive), and inaccessible by anyone that lives or comes into your house. Password-protected computers, locked file cabinets, and a desk or table and chair that is designated as your space are all vital; it should not be an area that each day you are taking down to set the dinner table or to work on a puzzle. At any time, someone could come and check on this space, and it has to be compliant.

Become friends with your mute button.

Nothing kills a business meeting, conference call, training webinar, or interview more than background noise, or noise that is not professional. You may get cut some slack from people the first time, during this pandemic, but most will just find it annoying that you can’t control your surroundings, or that you are not tech-savvy enough to know what mute is. If you have gardeners that all of a sudden show up as you are starting your 10 a.m. meeting, be prepared to change locations to a closed room from which you can shut off the noise.

Support your teammates.

I’ve also learned from this experience that supporting others is the best way to stay positive and energized. We use our online tools for more than just work, sharing photos of family and pets and checking in with each other throughout the day. Cheering each other up is not just good for maintaining morale, it also helps keep your team together when you work apart.

Managers can support remote employees.

As much as remote work can be fraught with challenges, there are also relatively quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the transition. Actions that you can take today include:

Establish structured daily check-ins: many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls if your employees work more independently from each other, or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

Provide several different communication technology options: email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face to face. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: visual cues allow for increased mutual knowledge about coworkers, and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.

There are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. For these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc.), which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.

Know when it’s quitting time. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Close up at a reasonable hour. If you worked 8-5 in your on-site office, then you should keep the same hours remotely, depending on your employee contract. There is a pull to respond to email and texts late at night and on weekends, to give the appearance we are still working hard, but that isn’t fair to you or your family when your salary is the same, or when your hours have been scaled back due to finances. When you close it down for the day, pack it up. Wipe everything down, put things away, lock drawers, log out of systems, and make your designated workspace look ready for the next day, not a cyclone you’ll need to sift through. Pretend you have housekeepers or janitorial staff coming, and you don’t want them seeing anything. Also, it is always a great idea to wipe down anything you have touched, worked on, and had coffee or eaten over. Continue with the handwashing and space hygiene, even at home working.

Stay off social media until you are finished working.

Social media is a time suck, and you could think you are only checking Facebook or Instagram for a quick look, and all of a sudden you have wasted an hour. That is not fair to you or your employer, or your family members who want your downtime when your work is finished. Save social media for your evenings, after work, after dinner, when your kids want you to watch Frozen2 for the 10th time, or your husband or partner is playing video games.

We’ll add our own note of encouragement to healthcare professionals, managers, administrators, coders, billers, CDI and RCM teams, and anyone facing remote work for the first time: you’ve got this.

Programming Note: Listen to Terry Fletcher report this story live today on Talk Ten Tuesdays, 10-10:30 a.m. EST.

Terry Fletcher, BS, CPC, CCC, CEMC, CCS, CCS-P, CMC, CMSCS, CMCS,  ACS-CA, SCP-CA, QMGC, QMCRC

Terry Fletcher, BS, CPC, CCC, CEMC, CCS, CCS-P, CMC, CMSCS, CMCS, ACS-CA, SCP-CA, QMGC, QMCRC, is a healthcare coding consultant, educator, and auditor with more than 30 years of experience. Terry is a past member of the national advisory board for AAPC, past chair of the AAPCCA, and an AAPC national and regional conference educator. Terry is the author of several coding and reimbursement publications, as well as a practice auditor for multiple specialty practices around the country. Her coding and reimbursement specialties include cardiology, peripheral cardiology, gastroenterology, E&M auditing, orthopedics, general surgery, neurology, interventional radiology, and telehealth/telemedicine. Terry is a member of the ICD10monitor editorial board and a popular panelist on Talk Ten Tuesdays.

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