Outsourcing of Medical Services

27 Apr ’05

A few weeks ago I blogged about medical outsourcing. I’ve noticed lately that stories on this topic are popping up increasingly often. This time it’s WaPo, writing about outsourcing the analysis of diagnostic imaging. Quote:

When patients needed urgent CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds late at night at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn., emergency room workers used to rouse a bleary-eyed staff radiologist from his bed to read the images. Not anymore.

The work now goes to Arjun Kalyanpur — 8,000 miles away in Bangalore, India. When it is the middle of the night in Connecticut, Kalyanpur is in the middle of his day, handling calls from St. Mary’s and dozens of other American hospitals that transmit pictures to him electronically so he can quickly assess them and advise their doctors.

Kalyanpur runs one of an increasing number of “nighthawk” companies operating in the United States and overseas to take advantage of time-zone differences and the latest technology by having radiologists read images from such far-flung places as Hawaii, India, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Brazil.

It’s clear that this is generating fear and loathing, but it’s also clear that it’s generating demand:

“The nightmare scenario is you have one or two people with licenses and a room with 25 or 30 computer terminals staffed by people who may or may not be radiologists,” said John Haaga, chairman of the radiology department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Wipro Infotech, a large company in India that provides a variety of services to U.S. companies, began using non-U.S. licensed radiologists to provide “preliminary” interpretations of images for U.S. hospitals in 2003. Wipro halted the service because of intense criticism but remains interested because the market has only increased, officials said.

“The demand is huge. We get a couple of calls every week,” Wipro’s T.K. Kurien said. “We’d like to see some kind of process where our guys could provide this kind of service to hospitals in the United States.”

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