Fitbit, health trackers spur health BPO growth

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 09 2018 04:28 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2018 11:40 PM

Fitbit, health trackers spur health BPO growth 1
A visitor uses a Fitbit Ionic watch at the IFA Electronics Show in Berlin, Germany. Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters/File

MANILA - The popularity of Fitbit and other fitness trackers is driving growth in health-related business process outsourcing in the Philippines, an industry official said Tuesday.

The industry, made up of nurses and doctors who give medical and health advice to customers in North America over-the-phone, grew nearly 10-fold in the Philippines over 6 years, said Jeff Williams, chairman of the Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines (HIMAP).

"All these new toys are bringing in so much data but can a person really effective manage it themselves?" Williams told ABS-CBN News.

"If you pair that up with let's say a dietitian here in the Philippines who calls you up on as regular basis to say, 'Hey, I'm studying your cholesterol count, you need to put the donut down,' you find people will get on it longer and they get more benefit from it," he said.

Getting an on-the-call health expert to analyze data from health monitoring devices makes check-ups faster and more efficient.

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"With these monitoring devices, we can see immediately 'Oh, we have to turn some prescription down a little bit or turn it up a little bit because we could see the impact," Williams said.

People don't have to stand waiting in hospitals for hours, he said.

In 2017, the industry earned $2.8 billion in revenues, 6 times higher compared to $450 million in 2012, he said.

The industry now has 133,000 direct employees, a 787-percent increase over 6 years, he said.

Over-the-phone health analyses and check-ups account for 10 percent of BPOs in the Philippines, but it will not lead to the reduction of the number of healthcare workers in actual hospitals, Williams said.

The technology is meant to complement surgeries and hospital visits, he said.

"Hospitals have been wanting to reduce re-admissions," he said.

"If you stay at home with a monitoring device and have clinical people monitoring you, we can stay on top of it, help adjust medications without clogging hospital space for more critical cases," he said.

The booming health information industry is also immune from the shift to automation that has long been a threat to the BPO industry.

"The industry will never contract because people are not going to stop getting sick," Williams said.

"We provide higher value skills. It's just a matter of how we make the system more efficient," he said.