PH healthcare academy launches free classes for nurses

By Katherine Visconti – American outsourcing firm EXL launched its first global healthcare academy in Manila with offers to employees with nursing degrees free classes to upgrade their skills.

“Any employee can sign up day one after they join us,” said Jaideep Pradhan, EXL Philippines Senior Vice President.

A typical certification course offered at the EXL’s Healthcare Academy costs about USD$15,000 to take in the U.S. estimated Sanjay Dutt, EXL’s Vice President for Capability Development. He added that even though the certifications will be earned in Manila, they will be internationally recognized.

“We are paying for their fees to become us licensed nurses so that they can do more skilled work with us. As they work, we will upgrade them to the next level of skill,” said EXL Vice Chairman and CEO Rohit Kapoor.

The company is willing to shoulder the cost because they foresee a huge swelling in demand for skilled health care services in the U.S., the market which accounts for the majority of their profit.

The US government says the new affordable care act, nicknamed Obamacare, will expand coverage to at least 30 million uninsured Americans.

“That puts demand on the system, so it’s companies like us who help augment,” said Rembert de Vila, Head of Insurance and Healthcare and Chief Strategy Officer for EXL.

He explained that these nurses will apply their clinical skills to the business side of healthcare, such as helping to judge if health insurance claims are valid.

“It’s a new area…. Think of it more as the business side of health care, instead of the pure clinical or hospital side,” he said.

“The demand for this service we anticipate will be very high. This allows us to make that investment and be ahead of the curve. The role of the Philippines in that buildup will be critical for us,” said Kapoor.

Moving up the value chain

EXL’s is taking on a strategy many other outsourcing firms operating in the Philippines are coming to embrace – moving up the value chain.

“We’re not just a call center, we want to do higher level work,” said Kapoor, “We want to equip our people to be professionals…. What gives us great pleasure is to employ nurses and give them work in the area that they were trained.”

Many Philippine outsourcing firms are looking at investing in skills training as a way to become more competitive as the cost of operating in the Philippines rises.

Voice-based services have long been a sweet spot for business process outsourcing firms in the Philippines and India, which host Asia’s largest english speaking populations.

However, industry players say the Philippines cost advantage has been eroding as the Philippine peso rises in value against the dollar, while the Indian rupee drops against the greenback. And many Philippine firms want to justify their cost value with employee value.

Working with a Philippine outsourcing firm instead of one in India now means paying a 10% to 25% premium, explained Vijay Narsapur, the Strategic Business Practice Head-Customer Service at Infosys. Pradhan of EXL Philippines independently echoed the same cost ratio.

Industry players at the Business Processing Association of the Philippines 4th International Outsourcing Summit recently debated the merits of becoming more competitive through lower costs or high skills. BPAP Chairman Alfredo Ayala seemed to embrace both approaches.

“It is critical of course that our competitiveness versus other countries does not erode. One of our top concerns is the appreciation of the peso versus the indian rupee by 25% since early 2010,” he said.

Ayala appealed to the guest of honor, President Aquino, to help keep the peso stable and assured him that at the same time Filipino BPOs are confident they can “move up the value chain in new targeted segments of the software, digital, healthcare, finance,” and several other sectors.

For his part Aquino said he wanted to see Filipino outsourcing workers take on more challenging work. “At the end of the day, I believe the collective dream of Filipinos is to be number one not just in answering calls or analyzing data. The dream of the Filipino people is for this country to climb higher and higher—to compete on even ground on the world stage,” said Aquino.

“I have no doubt in my mind that one day, the Philippines will take its place not just at the top of this sector, but near the top of the global community,” he added.

For local workers in outsourcing, the shift to high skilled work means finding more engaging work and higher salaries in the Philippines.

EXL’s Pradhan told reporters at the outsourcing summit that Filipino nurses can earn up to P35,000 a month and don’t have to pay for their hospital training.

The way Shruti Jain, EXL’s chief communications officer, sees it, the world is becoming more flat and Filipinos increasingly can opt to stay in the Philippines for completive jobs and salaries.

“You had an era where people moved. It didn’t matter where you were, you could go anywhere. That was the openness the world brought in. Today you are coming back to the scenario where you can be where you are, where you were born. You can make a living for yourself and a life,” she said. –

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