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Healthcare the new buzzword in outsourcing

Medical pros are being outsourced to supplement shrinking incomes from traditionally-run sectors. Suprotip Ghosh & Venkatesh Ganesh report.
Hindustan Times | By Suprotip Ghosh and Venkatesh Ganesh (With inputs from Nivriti Butalia), Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 15, 2008 12:10 PM IST

A team of nurses and paramedics led by two doctors in Noida are busy studying profiles of elderly patients to prepare risk reports for insurance companies.

Nothing unusual about this scenario except that the patients and the insurance companies are 15,000 km away — in the US.

More and more outsourcing firms in India are now hiring medical professionals — doctors and nurses — as they look for new areas of business to supplement shrinking incomes from sectors that have traditionally opted for outsourcing, like finance and banking.

Noida-based BPO Xansa deals with the insurance and legal aspect of settling medical claims. “We have a team of doctors, equipped with a specialised skill set, who assess prognosis, underwrite and evaluate the mortality rate of customers and the risk involved,” said Arijit Chandra, senior transition manager. He added that most medical outsourcing business takes place in Bangalore.

Four other outsourcing firms – Wipro BPO, TCS, Cognizant and HCL – told Hindustan Times that they are hiring doctors, nurses and paramedics. About 15-18 people come on board every month, said officials, though at the moment, companies are reluctant to reveal the exact figures.

The pay obviously depends on experience and quality of work done, but it’s common for these BPOs to offer the doctors double of what they have been making. So, the average salary could start from Rs 45,000 and go up to Rs 3 lakh per month, said industry sources.

The perks are many for doctors who are used to putting in anywhere between 16 to 18 hours daily at public hospitals. "The timings are decent," said a 32-year-old doctor who joined Wipro's BPO recently after practising for three years at a Chennai clinic.

"A doctor's salary is measly, and there's no way I can start my own practice considering the high cost of setting up a clinic. This is a good option." He used to earn Rs 25,000 a month, now his salary is Rs 45,000.

It's a good alternative for BPOs too. As the US heads towards recession, business from financial services does not look promising. But the healthcare sector, particularly for senior citizens, has remained untouched. "The US is getting older, and insurance companies need to keep track of the health of their elderly clients," said Sanjiv Kapur, senior vice-president and head, Patni BPO, the business process outsourcing arm of Mumbai-based Patni Computer Systems.

In 2006, the US had over 3.73 crore people over 65 years for whom the state spent close to $401.3 billion (Rs 16 lakh crore) as per US census data. The spend is growing by 18.5 per cent every year, says Patni.

With inputs from Nivriti Butalia

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