Healthcare: A Guide to Work From Home Careers

For those looking to break free from the limitations of commuting and cubicles, it may be time to become an “open-collar” worker. The newest term to describe telecommuting, open-collar work offers people the ability to work remotely with their laptops, mobile devices, and other equipment. Open-collar workers can now access shared software programs through virtual networks and “attend” meetings and presentations through video-conferencing. If this sounds enticing, you’re not alone: in fact, a report from Global Workplace Analytics shows that two-thirds of people would opt for a work from home job given the opportunity. Healthcare has taken note of this growing trend, and there are open-collar opportunities for a range of positions including medical coders, medical transcriptionists, registered nurses, medical managers, and pharmacists.

Benefits of Remote Work

According to Forbes magazine and the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that workers who telecommute experience:

  • Higher morale
  • Decreased stress
  • Fewer absences from work
  • Increased autonomy
  • More happiness

In addition, by not commuting or reducing the amount of commuting, remote workers help to decrease the reliance on oil and the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air by vehicles. For workers concerned about their impact on the environment, this can be a huge benefit to choosing open-collar work.

Hiring open-collar workers creates benefits for employers as well, including:

  • Reduction in attrition
  • Reduction of unscheduled absences
  • Increased productivity
  • Cost savings

While work-from-home opportunities can be found in a wide range of industries, well-known organizations within healthcare, including the UnitedHealth Group and Shriners Hospital for Children, offer remote jobs.

Telecommuting Jobs in Healthcare

Work from home opportunities in healthcare come in many different shapes and sizes, varying by occupation type, employer, and setting. Here are five occupations in healthcare which offer opportunities to work from home.

Medical Coder

Wherever insurance is billed, medical coders are needed. Although the name may make you think of software programmers, medical coders do not code computer software. Rather, medical coders use a classification system to assign codes to medical services and procedures so that doctors and healthcare organizations can be reimbursed by insurance. Medical coders typically use a classification system like the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) or the Current Procedural Terminology code set (CPT), which they can learn about in a college program.

Salary

A medical coder’s median salary is about $38,040 a year or $18.29 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Oct. 2017). Self-reported salaries at Payscale (2018) show a slightly lower median wage at $17.13 an hour. Of course, pay varies by location, experience, and setting. For example, medical coders working in professional, scientific, and technical services boasted higher median wages than those working in hospitals or doctor offices (BLS).

Career Outlook

The job outlook for medical records and health information technologists—including medical coders—is expected to be bright. In fact, the BLS (Oct. 2017) projected a 13 percent increase in jobs in this field nationally between 2016 and 2026. This growth is considered to be faster than average and is expected to produce 27,800 fresh openings across the country. Notably, the aging Baby Boomer population is increasing the nationwide demand for healthcare services, which will likely result in a need for more coders as more claims are processed for reimbursement (SNHU 2016).

Online Training

Many people become medical coders by enrolling in a certificate or diploma program at a vocational-tech school or community college. Medical coding programs are available completely online and include coursework in medical terminology, insurance billing, reimbursement methodologies, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. Depending on the type of program, completion can take four months to a year, and tuition costs vary. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)—the predominant credentialing organization in this field—also offers a wide range of online courses in medical coding and billing. Certifications may be helpful (or necessary) to obtain employment in this field.

Sample Employers

While many different companies employ medical coders, remote positions may be offered to more experienced coders first. Some of the organizations that could provide work from home opportunities include Accentus (formerly known as Transolutions), Altegra Health, CSI Companies, Maxim Health Information Systems, McKesson, and UnitedHealth Group.

Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists translate the dictated notes of a doctor into the electronic medical records systems used for medical reports, patient discharges, and patient referrals. Medical transcriptionists understand a doctor’s medical abbreviations and terminology and can rewrite notes into long form. A one-year medical transcriptionist education is usually adequate for entering the field, and some jobs may be available remotely.

Salary

The BLS (Oct. 2017) reported that the median salary for a medical transcriptionist was $35,720 a year or $17.77 per hour. However, some transcriptionists may be paid by the volume of work they complete. Payscale (2018) found a slightly lower median than the at $15.28 at hour. Pay can vary by location, too. For example, even though medical transcriptionists with years of experience generally earn above $32,000, medical transcriptionists working in Atlanta, GA had a median pay almost reaching $40,000 (Payscale). In Chicago, the median pay for medical transcriptionists was slightly above $36,000.

Career Outlook

Because new technologies in speech recognition allows more doctors to document electronic notes in real time, the job outlook for medical transcriptionists is not expected to be strong in upcoming years. However, some doctors may prefer the services of transcriptionists over the use of digital software if they find new software challenging (Rasmussen). Again, with the growing medical needs of an aging Baby Boomer population creating greater demand for healthcare services, medical transcriptionists interested in open-collar jobs may still be able to find work from home opportunities in the upcoming years.

Online Training

Students interested in medical transcription careers often complete a one-year certificate program, according to the BLS. Like the programs offered through Everett Community College, training can often be found online. Students in an online program learn how to transcribe notes to use in various forms of medical documentation, and can also become familiar with dictation errors common to healthcare. Classes can include medical billing and health insurance, pathology and pharmacology, and medical transcription. Because the medical transcriptionist field is not expected to grow much in upcoming years, institutions like Rasmussen College encourage students to consider enrolling in an academic program that is more extensive. For example, someone with an associate’s degree in healthcare administration has understanding of the medical system that goes beyond medical transcription. This higher-level understanding may make a graduate more competitive when they are seeking a medical transcriptionist job.

Sample Employers

About a third of all medical transcriptionists in the U.S. work part-time and about five percent are self-employed, meaning there could be open-collar opportunities available to those who seek them. Companies that may hire medical transcriptionists for telecommuting positions include Acusis, LLC, Shriners Hospital for Children, Wiesen Medical Writing, Bluebeam Radiology, and others. Freelance work may also be found through job websites like Indeed, Freelancer, or FlexJobs.

Registered Nurse

It may be hard to believe that jobs for registered nurses can be found as work from home opportunities, but positions are available. An RN can use his or her skills remotely in a number of different ways, including for research, paperwork, or consultations that don’t require face-to-face meetings. RNs typically have a two- or four-year degree, a state license, and a variety of basic clinical skills and practical experiences gained in school. Registered nurses with specializations (e.g., primary care, prenatal, women’s healthcare, etc), may find their specializations helpful in finding the right work from home opportunity.

Salary

The median salary for registered nurses is $68,450 a year or the equivalent of $39.21 an hour, according to the BLS (Oct. 2017). RNs in the highest ten percent earned $102,990 or higher, while those in the lowest ten percent earned $47,120 or lower. Payscale shows that the self-reported median hourly wage of registered nurses is $28.87 per hour, somewhat below the median hourly pay reported by the BLS. RNs also may find opportunities for overtime and bonuses, including sign-on bonuses.

Career Outlook

According to the BLS (Oct. 2017), jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow 15 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026. This growth is faster than average and is expected to produce 438,100 new jobs in the U.S. Outpatient care centers for post-surgery, chemotherapy, or rehabilitation services are expected to see a strong rising demand for RNs. Employment opportunities in outpatient settings have increased six times faster than at hospitals. When looking for a remote job, an outpatient center may be a solid place to start investigating potential opportunities.

Online Training

In order to work as a registered nurse, students need a two-years associate’s or four-year bachelor’s degree, as well as a passing score on the licensing exam for the state in which they hope to work. In an RN program, students learn about basic healthcare services, patient-centered treatment, evidenced-based applications, medical terminology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. With the exception of clinical experiences and rotations, prospective students can find programs that offer some or all classes online. Tuition can vary by school and by the type of program.

Sample Employers

One source for distance-based employment could be online organizations that provide people with web-based consultations or online access to registered nurses on a 24-hour basis. Jobs like these may be available on a part-time or freelance basis. An RN looking for full-time open-collar opportunities can look within companies like AmericasourceBergen, CVS, Humana, Kaiser, and PAREXEL. Work from home opportunities may also be available through Aetna, Anthem, Mercy, UnitedHealth Group, 83Bar, and FoneMed.

Health Service Manager

A health service career in management can be a great way for someone to find a work from home job, particularly if that person is already in management, or is willing to go to back to school to learn more about healthcare administration. Since the healthcare industry is expected to create four million additional jobs in the decade preceding 2026, there could be many remote opportunities available for people interested in entry-level or advanced management.

Salary

The median pay for medical and health services managers is $96,540 per year or $46.41 per hour, according to the BLS (Oct. 2017). Please note that managers employed in hospitals earn more, on average, than managers employed in settings that include government, outpatient care facilities, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes.

Career Outlook

At 20 percent growth, the BLS reports that job opportunities for medical and health service managers are expected to grow much faster than average between 2016 and 2026. Job opportunities for managers should be favorable as a result of increasing employment needs and the anticipated replacement of retiring managers. Candidates who have a graduate-level degree or who are knowledgeable about healthcare IT may find their knowledge and skills in greatest demand.

Online Training

A bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or administration is typically needed to enter the field and many of these programs allow distance-based learning. Online degree programs can help students to learn about business ethics, accounting principles, accounting management, healthcare operations management, research and statistics in healthcare, healthcare data and technology applications. Students many need to complete a capstone project as well. Fully online degree programs can be a good option for people who want a telecommuting healthcare career but who lack the time to attend classes during the day.

Tuition for healthcare management degrees varies based on the type of degree (associate’s or bachelor’s) and the school a student selects. At the University of Maryland University College, the 120-credit online health services management bachelor’s program costs $289 per credit for in-state students and $499 for non-residents, while a comparable distance-based program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) costs $320 per credit-hour, regardless of residence.

Sample Employers

Healthcare managers can find remote opportunities, including jobs for medical directors, account managers, medical management specialists, fundraising managers, project coordinators, and more. Prospective healthcare managers might look at companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, BroadPath Healthcare Solutions, Cigna or Sodexo for telecommuting opportunities.

Pharmacist

Pharmacists can find jobs outside the pharmacy, with opportunities to telecommute through research at home, providing their professional guidance online, or working a remote order entry job. Pharmacists need advanced education in the form of a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree, and also need to state licensure prior to employment. Rotations are part of any PharmD program and provide students with hands-on opportunities to work in pharmacology.

Salary

According to the BLS (Oct. 2017), the median salary for a pharmacist is $122,230 a year or $58.77 per hour. Payscale shows that, according to self-reports, the median income for pharmacists is $110,242, with opportunities for bonuses and profit-sharing. In general, average pay reaches above $100,000 a year. This high pay may be a result of pharmacists’ advanced degree and in-depth knowledge about pharmaceuticals.

Career Outlook

Job demand for pharmacists is anticipated to grow by six percent in the decade after 2016, according to the BLS. This job growth is almost as fast as average for all U.S. jobs and is predicated upon the need for increased pharmacy services in hospitals and clinics. Again, the aging Baby Boomer population is also expected to drive increased demand for pharmacists. The BLS further suggests that jobs for pharmacists in retail settings will decline, while jobs for pharmacists through online and mail-order sales should increase. In all, 17,600 new pharmacy jobs are expected to be created by 2026.

Online Training

PharmD programs can be intense, requiring students to be knowledgeable in a number of sciences, including biochemistry, biopharmaceutics, physiology, and pathophysiology. Most programs are four years in length, but students may be able to find programs that are shorter or that are combined with other degrees, such as a PhD or MBA. Honors programs also may be available. PharmD degrees can be expensive with the University of California at San Francisco reporting annual tuition of more than $50,000 a year. However, scholarships are available at some schools. Students also can find distance-learning programs available, such as those through Creighton University and the LECOM School of Pharmacy. Students can engage in distance-based education to complete some courses, but certain types of courses, such as labs, may still need to be completed through planned visits to campus.

Sample Employers

Pharmacists are often employed in non-remote settings, including retail stores, hospitals and clinics. Open-collar pharmacists might find opportunities entering and verifying prescriptions from home, and for on-call nurses and doctors. Organizations that may offer work from home or telecommuting positions for pharmacists include AmerisourceBergen, Broadpath Healthcare Solutions, CVS Health, Humana, and PharmD on Demand.

Finding Open-Collar Jobs In Healthcare

Right now, three percent of the U.S. workforce telecommutes at least part of the time. While that may seem small, it represents a 103 percent increase from 2005 (Global Workplace Analytics). The healthcare industry is a part of this growth. According to WorkingMother, in the fall of 2017, UnitedHealth Group looked to hire nearly 400 employees in work from home positions including opportunities for pharmacists, case managers, and other common healthcare positions. Was that a hiring quirk or more of a trend? Does this mean that the time is optimal to find a work from home position?

No one knows for sure, but companies are well-aware of the benefits of an extensive hiring pool and the ability to scale up or down quickly and efficiently. In addition, increasing the talent pool is widely considered to be one of the most significant draws to a telecommuting workforce (Monster). As employers are looking more and more to the benefits of a partially remote workforce, and as it becomes clear that flexible career options are expected by up-and-coming generations, it’s a good time to decide if you want to get into the open-collar game. Advancing your education in healthcare can be one way to break down those cubicle walls, leave your commute behind, and enjoy the benefits of remote work.

Maggie O'Neill
Maggie O'Neill
Writer

After graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in English, Maggie O'Neill followed the call to move across the country to the land of open-space and awe-inspiring views and vistas. She settled in Northern Nevada, where she pursued a career in journalism, writing for several newspapers and covering beats as varied as education, crime, and the outdoors. She launched her own business, RenoFreelancerLLC, in 2014. When she isn't busy writing, researching, and interviewing, she is having fun with her two girls and the menagerie of animals that now comprise their home.

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