Many of our Carrington College California programs include an externship element; and for many students the extern experience can be the most rewarding part of their education. They relish the chance to put their new theoretical skills to the test in a real world environment.
We are very grateful to the numerous extern partners who support our programs and our students around the state; this month we’ve profiled one such business, Metro Medical Billing, that supports students on the Medical Billing & Coding associate degree program at Carrington College San Jose, CA campus.
Our thanks to Dan Devou, Director of Client Services, who was kind enough to spend some time with us to discuss Metro Medical Billing’s externship program;
“We’re a small fish compared to many billing agencies; we’re currently running 6 full-time employees, but we supplement our staff with our externs. That’s the mutually beneficial part of doing an externship!”
Metro Medical Billing Inc., a small 3rd party billing company, was established in 1985. Before purchasing the company from founder Julie Matsushima in 2001, the current owner worked in every capacity in the business. With more than 40 years of combined expertise, the team at Metro Medical Billing dedicate themselves to serving the billing needs of specialized medical practices.
The company has been taking on externs since around 2003, when the company was located in Fremont, CA. The association with Carrington College California began 5 years ago when the business relocated to San Jose, CA.
“The college we had been working with in Fremont didn’t have a campus in San Jose, so we reached out to Western Career College (as Carrington was known then) to offer ourselves as an externship site. The campus extern coordinator came out to our facility, did some interviews, and now 5 years later we’ve had as many as 50 Carrington students pass through our doors.”
An externship really is a mutually beneficial exercise; companies obviously benefit from having a regular influx of keen and enthusiastic staff, but its value to the students cannot be overestimated, as Dan explains;
“The externship allows students to see the real side of the business, after they’ve learned the theoretical side. We give them the chance to see how a 3rd party billing company actually works; to see what is involved in revenue management of a client. We try and get our students involved in what’s happening in the medical billing world today, because the field is in a period of huge flux right now.”
Metro Medical Billing also takes externs from an online school that has a Medical Billing program, so they are servicing 2 colleges at this point. However the way that Carrington handles the externship suits Metro Medical better, as Dan explains;
“We normally have 2 or 3 FTE (full time employee) externship positions; for us the benefit of Carrington students is that they complete their externship at the end of their schooling, and so they are available full time for 6 weeks. The other college’s students do their externship during their schooling, so they’re only available for 16 hours a week to fill in.”
One distinct advantage for a company that acts as an externship site comes when they need to make entry-level hires;
“The last 4 people we’ve hired have come from our Carrington externship program. Externs get trained on our billing software, they know our office and what we do, and how we approach the business; they’re logical candidates for us when we get a new client or have a staffing need. We usually hire from the externship pool; why would we go outside to hire someone we don’t know?”
When you enter the Medical Billing & Coding field you typically don’t go right from school into coding; the usual career path for new starters is to begin their career in billing, not coding.
“Carrington students have chosen to go to college because they want to establish a career; that makes them motivated and hungry, and that’s why we like to give opportunities to entry level staff. By the time we see them they have completed their schooling at Carrington, so once they have finished their externship with us, they’re ready. They are more the finished article than students from the other college.”
According to Dan, the biggest thing students discover while doing their externship is that they now have access to real world information, on real world systems. They are using insurance company websites, databases, and automated voice response phone systems; they are dealing with ‘live’ medical information that is linked to real people in a real environment.
At Carrington, like any college, students practice using a large, fictitious database of medical information because of the sensitivity of real medical data. The student database is pretty limited in its scope when compared to the billing software that Metro Medical uses, a tool called ‘ClinixMIS’. “I tell our externs that they’ve been driving a Yugo for months, now they’re going to get into a Ferrari!”
Given the importance of the real life data that externs are working with, there have to be checks and balances in place to prevent errors getting through the system. This gives the company the ability to allow externs to work on real information, while giving students confidence that their work can’t do any harm. After all, everyone makes mistakes, especially when learning new skills.
“We try to get students involved in the whole cycle, but we do monitor them very closely. Our billing software creates a temporary database and works in a ‘batch processing mode’; although externs are working with live data, we have the chance to check and correct any errors before the files are submitted at the end of each day. It’s a great benefit in terms of training, because students (or our full time employees) can’t do anything that could be detrimental to our business.”
For students considering Billing & Coding as a profession, Dan has some good advice;
“In addition to being accurate and detailed oriented, one of the most important things for graduates is to be technologically competent, especially if you want to work in a small 3rd party company like ours. The technology aspect of this business is huge, so if you can help with that you’ll be valued.”
Thanks for your time Dan, and thanks to everyone at Metro Medical Billing for your continued support of Carrington College California students.
For comprehensive consumer information on our Medical Billing & Coding program, please visit carrington.edu/degrees/medical-billing-and-coding/