• M74 Editorial Team

“Hello! My name is Madesh.” My Experience as a Healthcare BPO Caller

By Madesh V V

Healthcare business process outsourcing (BPO) is when a healthcare provider (such as a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office) contracts its ancillary activities (like invoicing, collections, and clinical coding) to a third-party firm, often offshore. By outsourcing these tasks, healthcare facilities can focus solely on their core competencies (or what they do best), which is treating their patients.

Due to the lack of a national public system, healthcare is comparatively expensive in the United States (US). Accordingly, providers are constantly searching for ways to cut costs, while maintaining a high quality of care. So, it’s no surprise that over 75% of healthcare providers in the US outsource their billing and information management roles. When these providers outsource these roles, it’s a win-win: their costs in these areas fall by up to 50%, which increases their profits, and allows them (in theory) to pass on these savings to their patients.

The US, India, the Philippines, and European countries (like Spain and Portugal) lead the BPO services market, especially in terms of healthcare. In the Asia-Pacific region, there is heavy competition between India and the Philippines. Cost advantages, the ease of recruitment, reliable service, a shared language, and strong technological infrastructure are just some of the reasons why India is the top destination for US companies of all types to outsource their business processes.

Healthcare BPO firms in India provide vast career options. The scope includes data entry, clinical coding, accounts receivable, and voice process (meaning the handling of inbound and outbound calls). Although in-house training is provided, the employee turnover rate is extremely high—I would know; I worked for a healthcare BPO company for about 6 months. I was referred by my friend for an accounts receivables position, which is a voice process role. Later, I came to know that I was replacing a former employee. Favoritism, unrealistic targets, and stress are the main reasons for high turnover. I had to extend my shift almost every day to achieve my targets. As a result of this pressure, it was difficult to work efficiently. There were days when I screamed my lungs out while driving back home, because I was so frustrated. Needless to say, this industry wasn’t for me—not that my employer cared one way or the other.

India has an enormous pool of talent consisting of well-educated yet unemployed young people. This means BPO companies can afford to be selective. In other words, they can take the time to find the “right fit” for each role, rather than rushing to ensure every position is filled. By that same token, they can easily fire employees who they feel are “not working out” and even accept the resignations of those who are, knowing that hundreds of equally-qualified candidates are waiting to replace them.

India is referred to as the “back office of the world,” owing mainly to its BPO industry. BPO contributes significantly to India’s economic growth, especially in the services sector. This means even a mild disruption could cause a huge impact. Then comes COVID-19, which has wreaked chaos across the entire industry. For instance, BPO companies that cater to retailers have been devastated. Needless to say, BPO companies in the healthcare field have been less affected. The main adjustment they have had to make is transitioning their operations out of their dense call centers and into their employees’ homes. Remote working is easier said than done, though, seeing as many of these companies’ data protection protocols (in their current forms) prohibit working from home, due to privacy concerns pertaining to patient records. Not to mention, there are various infrastructure issues that need to be addressed, in terms of employees’ “home office” setups.

Today, the biggest challenge for BPO companies worldwide is simply staying afloat. The good news is there seems to be an understanding between these companies and their clients, seeing as the pandemic is a crisis that affects us all. The key factor here is communication. Being rigid about meeting unrealistic targets in this crisis will make things even worse for everybody. Luckily, many BPO executives in India are starting to realize that, and are now offering long-overdue support to their teams. For instance, some BPO companies in the healthcare field have been providing their employees with all of the necessary supplies to work from home, as well as updating their data protection protocols accordingly. In this sense, the pandemic is kickstarting the rapid transformation of the traditional BPO model. After all, if a BPO partner lacks preparedness and adaptability, then a client may end the relationship, and seek better services elsewhere.

The future of BPO is flexibility, responsiveness, and digital adoption (including via automation). Building a robust operational model is possible when infrastructure is enhanced to become more versatile, data protection protocols are updated with the times, and supportive leadership becomes the norm. I hope the Indian government will consider reviving the country’s work-from-home policy, not only for public health reasons, but also so India’s BPO companies are forced to keep upping their game, in order to maintain their dominant position in the global BPO industry. It is high time for India’s BPO industry to leave its past of overcrowded and dysfunctional call centers behind, and embrace the exciting future of remote working.

Madesh V V is an intern at M74. He is pursuing a Master of Business Administration at the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, India. He’s a people person, an optimist, and a voracious reader.

The views expressed above are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the M74 Group, which remains neutral on all matters. Publishers assume no liability for content.