With companies like Xerox finding success and scalability due to low attrition rates and a US-aligned workforce, and Sutherland Global executives predicting a “bright future” for the industry, there is no question that Jamaica is extremely hot right now for nearshore BPO.
This attractiveness stems from the country’s capabilities in higher-value, complex service offerings – a capacity that is leading to satisfactory results, particularly in healthcare BPO, which has seen a surge in popularity in recent years.
Jamaica’s processing of healthcare insurance claims has been a longstanding practice since the days of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which was acquired by Xerox in 2009. This practice has been evolving since then and is still seeing new players enter into the category. For example, in 2015, Itel-BPO secured three US-based entities to provide medical process outsourcing services in Jamaica.
“These new campaigns fit perfectly with Jamaica’s intent to position itself as an ideal location for high value services within the knowledge process outsourcing segment,” said Yoni Epstein, CEO of Itel-BPO Solutions, adding at the time that Jamaica was evolving and maturing into a destination capable of providing higher-end services in healthcare BPO.
Why Healthcare? Why now?
According to Vivion Scully, Consul for Trade & Investment Promotion at Jampro, healthcare BPO has been developing on the island for some time, with Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) playing a vital role in developing the current quality of talent on the island. “HGS’s first contact center was established to serve banking clients, but they soon began pitching the location to one of their major healthcare clients who had a contract in the Philippines,” he said. “HGS noticed that the productivity levels in Jamaica were pretty high. It took several presentations, but I think they got things off to a good start.”
When considering the complexities of the healthcare vertical, it’s important to remember that Jamaica, as a nearshore destination, has been in business for more than a decade now, resulting in some recent maturity in the middle-management layer.
“When many of the emerging, offshore BPO markets were still in the early stages, there wasn’t much depth in terms of frontline managers and middle managers available to run these operations,” said Andrew Kokes, SVP of Global Marketing at HGS. “Now, a decade to fifteen years later, a lot of basic operational proficiency has been built with people who have been in the business for that long, and are now better prepared to take on the rigors of contact center and efficiency management, as well as more complex types of work, like healthcare.”
According to Kokes, Jamaica has been able to prove itself in this aspect, attracting players in the healthcare sector that may have previously been more conservative BPO adopters.
Besides the development of stronger management, there are other things that aid and abet this particular trend. The first is the combination of a consumption of U.S. media, similar education systems, and a cultural affinity to the United States, aligning Jamaica perfectly with its primary neighboring market. Secondly, Jamaica has long had a focus on tourism, resulting in a gregarious and outgoing population, which is one of the vital components when building the right healthcare team. Lastly, being on the same timezone with a short flight time from the U.S., especially New York, Atlanta, or Miami, means less travel for clients and executives.
Jamaica has always been a service-oriented economy with the third-largest English speaking population behind Canada and the United States, and a population of 3 million, both on the island and within the States. “Jamaica has scale, it has built-out space, and it has ready-made talent, supported by a population with a friendly, outgoing demeanor,” said Narasimha Murthy, President of Jamaica and Corporate Shared Services, Americas at HGS. “Skills can be imparted, but the willingness to help cannot.”
Developing Healthcare Talent
Sutherland Global is now making a push to shift some healthcare business to the island, which will lead to a larger pool of healthcare services being offered there over the next couple of months, according to Scully. “The company has started discussions with the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) to create a pool of talent for healthcare, and the University of West Indies is making undergraduate staffing available to providers on the island, fueling it greatly,” he said.
Jamaica also has one of the largest medical schools in the Caribbean, with a 300,000 square-foot facility that provides training for medical personnel across the region, and adding further weight to its growing healthcare orientation. Furthermore, there is a large population of nurses in Jamaica that have been trained for local use, many of whom have been taken on-board by healthcare players in the United States. This talent pool also provides a direct source of employees for healthcare BPO.
Future Healthcare Trends in Jamaica
Some of the country’s major hospitals are currently working on telemedicine initiatives with Canada and the Unites States, in order to boost local capabilities. “As an offshoot down the road, I’m sure this will result in further opportunities for the healthcare sector and the services offered – it just requires a few clients to start it,” said Scully. “Right now, we are building capabilities and looking at medical tourism, with a number of discussions taking place between large hospitals in Canada and Jamaica to create centers of excellence. I think, as a natural offshoot of that, telemedicine will take off at some point, but I don’t see it happening today.”
Ultimately, Jamaica’s main attraction for healthcare BPO is a high capability for claims processing and client services, but the future of the sector is difficult to project, because it all depends on how much clients are willing to place offshore. Also, with the United States currently “on the edge” right now (as Scully puts it) with huge changes in government, it will be difficult to make any predictions until Jamaica’s main market returns to a state of relative political stability.