Interview: Maria Cristina Coronel
How can the Philippines strengthen its attractiveness as a knowledge process outsourcing destination for call centre operations?
MARIA CRISTINA CORONEL: The outsourcing industry has seen a lot of opportunities from health care as well as from IT outsourcing (ITO). Whereas the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry started off with basic call centre operations, the industry has now begun to recognise the convergence between business process management (BPM) and ITO, leading to the growth in demand for ICT services, as they become more visible enablers for business efficiency. BPO companies must develop not just ICT or BPM services but also business services. As part of this transition, outsourcing companies must focus on new business models to develop services. These services will be business-to-business in nature and geared towards allowing any given enterprise to gain strength and become more competitive in its respective landscape. Tapping the digital space is ideally suited for industries that have a highly competitive environment and that need to have the necessary touch points with clients. Therefore, they would benefit if they were to pursue the digital transformation of their businesses. This trend will become increasingly more mainstream as businesses move into more complex environments, and BPO companies are beginning to recognise the opportunities in this shift.
Outsourcing has been quite easy to deal with in terms of platform technologies for simple tasks and processes. However, as the industry moves into the new complex digital environment, for example on the ICT services side, companies need to be competent in available technologies, but also should explore different business models or face the risk of becoming irrelevant. Although the industry has had a good growth trajectory for traditional outsourcing services, new opportunities will be found in digitisation and ICT, which will add a level of continuity and sustainability for the business. In this transformation process, building the business model or competencies in the digital space will not be a profitable arena at first. As a result, companies will be mindful that traditional services are the ones that generate the higher margins to fund new services.
What can the Philippines do to further capitalise on outsourcing opportunities in health care information management?
CORONEL: In the past, the activities and work being outsourced to the Philippines concerning health care were predominantly basic encoding and coding. However, as disruptors begin to shake the market, whether in robotics process automation or artificial intelligence, the Philippine health care outsourcing industry must look beyond basic functions and introduce ICT services to seize new opportunities in the evolving industry.
Large companies and start-ups are well suited to focus on niche services, where they can capitalise on their competencies. The first step is to spread awareness about the potential opportunities for the industry, especially developments and innovations happening elsewhere in the world. The growth of health care outsourcing will be dependent not on growing head count, but on building the necessary skills and capabilities beyond lower-value services.
Telehealth or telemedicine is an area that is becoming popular, and there are opportunities for the Philippines to deliver these services. With proper bandwidth and telecoms infrastructure, the country will be able to participate in that sector on a bigger scale and provide work opportunities for Filipino nurses, pharmacists and doctors, who can operate by doing readings and diagnostics of test results. Another area of growth is clinical research and “pharmacovigilance”, with some companies already engaged in these services and deploying resources in the Philippines. In addition to these, clinical research and health care analytics are important functions that can be delivered locally and would enable the country to develop broader resources.
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