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READER TIPS

For a Colorado clinic, telecommuting fills the gap in long-term absences

A large Colorado clinic has started allowing staff to work from home. But unlike most employers, it doesn’t view telecommuting as a way to reduce overhead. Instead, the clinic uses it to accommodate staffers who would otherwise have to take extended time off. And it’s picky about who can take advantage of it.

The clinic introduced telecommuting after one staffer’s child became ill and needed ongoing treatment.

Management knew the staff member would be in the hospital more than at work but didn’t want to lose her. Neither did the office want to bring in temporary help because of the work slowdown and the increased risk of errors.

The staffer mostly posts charges so the office set up a wireless system that lets her get into the system and do her work on her laptop from home or the hospital.

Soon the clinic allowed essentially the same thing for another staffer who became caregiver to an elderly parent. She now spends one day a week with her father and also gets her work done.

The days at home are counted as if the staffer is in the office. The department manager tracks when the staffer logs on and off the computer and monitors their work to ensure it’s what’s expected in a day for the position.

What about data protection?

The work is password-protected and supervised by the head of the IT department, who is also the office’s HIPAA compliance officer. In addition, the staffers have been trained to sit in an isolated area, to keep their screens directly in front of them, and to close their laptops when anybody walks into the room. Along with that, everybody — including the physicians — signs a confidentiality form before taking any information offsite.

Working from home is allowed on a case-by-case basis and it’s the department manager who has the final word. The job has to involve no patient contact and very little contact with other employees. Someone who enters payments from the Explanation of Benefits (EOBs), for example, is an ideal candidate.

The office doesn’t promote telecommuting, consider it a permanent arrangement, or allow it simply to suit an employee’s preferences. Instead, there has to be a good reason for working remotely. It’s used only to keep things rolling during what would otherwise be downtime for a current staffer.


Medical Office Manager wants to send you $100. Tell us how you solved a problem, implemented a successful program – or share any idea we can use in our Reader Tips column and we’ll send you $100. Contact catherine@plainlanguagemedia.com


Editor’s picks:

Model Policy: Telecommuting


Supervising and surviving virtual teams


Use contract employees and temporary workers to solve difficult staffing issues


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