July 27, 2012 | | Comments 1
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Outsourcing healthcare, but at what cost?

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that healthcare firms are increasingly shifting clinical services and decision-making on medical care overseas, including nursing functions.  WellPoint, Inc., a major health insurer, has begun to outsource pre-service nursing jobs, in which “nurses at insurance firms … help assess patient needs and determine treatment methods,” according to the article. This is a huge step beyond sending some data-processing or accounting services overseas, and it has raised some concerns among nursing organizations.

Beyond the issue of foreign insurers having a say in patient care, the outsourcing of healthcare jobs raises concerns about patient privacy. According to the article, the Iowa Health System and several other hospitals throughout the country have begun outsourcing the job of transcribing physician’s notes and other records. Despite claims that “nearly all countries have laws for protecting patient privacy,” it seems like a risk that outweighs the potential cost-savings. But one could see the appeal, particularly as electronic health records become the standard and eliminate the need for patient information to be stored physically.

Proponents of outsourcing argue that it not only cuts costs, but also enables U.S. companies to “tap global talent and efficiencies” and turn a greater profit. Ultimately, this is supposed to create more opportunities for American workers while keeping costs low for consumers. Perhaps that’s the case for industries such as manufacturing or technology, but it seems like healthcare is something that should be kept closer to home.

What are your thoughts on outsourcing healthcare jobs to other countries? Are there certain healthcare tasks that can be outsourced?  Leave a comment to weigh in.

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Filed Under: Retention

About the Author: Katrina Gravel is an editor for the Education division of HCPro.

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  1. This idea of outsourcing healthcare decision-making is utterly terrifying for a number of reasons.
    Patients will have no assurance that the overseas healthcare workers who “help assess patient needs and determine treatment methods,” will be cognizant of US standards of care or will be trained to US standards of performance. There will be no recourse — except through the insurance company itself — upon a decision which is overly influenced by the profit margin of the employing company.

    The claims that “nearly all countries have laws for protecting patient privacy,” are simply irrelevant. US medical records MUST BE protected to US standards. Unless there is an intergovernmental agreement in place to ensure that the host nation will prosecute HIPAA violations as vigorously as US government agencies do, there will be no effective protection for patient information.

    Outsourcing healthcare decisions will effectively deprive US patients of the right to participate in those decisions. At the same time, it will give the insurors another route by which they can escape accountability for decisions which sacrifice the patient for the sake of profitability.

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