PH healthcare BPO a ?hidden jewel?, says consulting firm

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International business advisor and research firm Everest Group has dubbed the local healthcare information management (HIM) industry as a ?hidden jewel? of the Philippines.

In its recent report, ?Healthcare BPO Is a ?Hidden Jewel? For the Philippines? Global Services Industry?, Everest said the Philippine healthcare BPO has grown fourfold over the past two years.

Revenues increased from $102 million in 2010 to $430 million by end-2012, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country?s IT-BPO industry.

As a result, global companies have shifted their focus to the Philippines because of its large pool of available talent. Everest notes that the Philippines has the largest pool of US-licensed nurses outside the United States, and ?trains more than 6,000 nurses per year, while the domestic demand is less than one-fourth of this supply.?

Filipino nurses are familiar with US medical practices as nursing education is patterned largely on US standards, ?thus making the transition to Healthcare BPO for US clients very easy for the nurses,? reported Everest.

Statistics from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) show that out of 62,000 examinees, Filipino nurses constitute 61 percent of foreign educated, first-time candidates qualifying for the US-NCLEX-RN examination.

Filipino nurses are the top foreign-educated nurses qualifying the said exam, followed by India, South Korea, Canada, and China. About 40 percent of foreign-educated nurses in the United States are Filipinos.

?There is tremendous opportunity for the Philippines to seize leadership in the global healthcare sector,? said Juanloz Botor, president of the Healthcare Information Management Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (HIMOAP).

?Our unparalleled workforce remains to be the main reason why the Philippines is well-suited to deliver HIM services for international clients.?

With the supply of professional nurses exceeding demand due to limited opportunities following the economic slowdown, the HIM industry has been an attractive career alternative for an estimated 200,000 unemployed nurses in the Philippines.

They have been excellent in delivering a wide array of HIM services, including medical transcription, data management, medical coding and billing, revenue cycle management, and pharmaceutical benefits management, among others.

Key drivers

Everest also noted that increase in demand for HIM services is being driven by healthcare-related legislation in the United States and Europe; hence, the need for maintaining exhaustive electronic medical records with complete information on billing and payment transfers.

Drivers for growth include the conversion to International Classification of Diseases-10 (ICD-10) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Moreover, a law enacted by the Obama administration, which mandates all US citizens to have health insurance coverage by 2014, will expand the market of health insurance that currently covers 256 million Americans.

Value proposition

?Global players… are not only leveraging the voice advantage of the Philippines for voice-based BPO but also using the unique value mix of medical know-how and good customer interaction skills to deliver niche services,? Everest reported.

The Philippines has always taken pride in its highly competent IT-BPO workforce. Good English language skills and strong cultural affinity with the United States make it easier for Filipino professionals to relate with American customers. For North American clients, Filipino accents are easier to work with and accent neutralization programs require a shorter duration.

?No other country in the world has the sheer volume of healthcare-trained professionals that you?ll find in the Philippines such as nurses, physical therapists, and doctors. This alone sets this country apart from every other country in its capabilities,? said Jeff Williams, HIMOAP chairman.

Realizing the significant contribution of the HIM sector, the government and industry, through HIMOAP, have already provided support through focused initiatives and efforts to better equip the workforce with the necessary skills set the industry requires.

?The sector is expected to receive special attention from the government with the Department of Labor and Employment categorizing it as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the IT-BPO industry. HIMOAP has launched several training programs to equip the workforce with better technical and IT skills. HIMOAP also helps domestic firms remain up-to-date with the industry best practices and educate them on the rising opportunities in the sector,? reported Everest.

Industry public-private partnerships have enabled support for talent development and investor confidence in the HIM sector. By 2016, the HIM industry is expected to become a $1-billion industry employing around 100,000 Filipinos.

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