India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, recently ordered the country’s 1.3 billion residents to stay at home for the next three weeks. While many Americans have been working from home for a few weeks and some have experienced minimal or limited productivity changes, it’s a different story in India, and this is having implications far beyond India’s economy.
Over the past several years, many health care providers and payers have outsourced business functions to India. It wasn’t done in a rash way – they often visited the sites beforehand and tested their control structure, disaster recovery plans and other common business practices. This oversight continued after the operations were moved.
But there was a risk that many could not have predicted: That a pandemic would force employees to work from home.
This is easier if workers have high-speed internet access and a reliable computer at home, as is often the case in the United States. But it is an issue in India, which has not developed its technological capability as widely.
India trails the United States in its technology infrastructure…
Source: World Bank
Beyond access to computers and the internet, the timing of the prime minister’s announcement presented some additional logistical issues. Many health care providers we spoke with told us that they had a matter of a few days to prepare for the stay-at-home order because the reported coronavirus cases in India had been somewhat minimal until recently. Simply getting the hardware to employees has been one of the more complicated issues.
… but India needs that capability as coronavirus cases soar
Faced with this challenge, many health care organizations are scrambling to develop alternatives. There are some approaches worth considering:
- Cross training — In addition to delaying some surgeries (which has caused some resource capacity) many of health care providers have policies regarding front-line employees returning to work if they have any possible exposure to the coronavirus. We have heard some health care organizations cross training these resources to do work that was previously off-shored.
- Responding to the changing labor market — With the growing number of workers who have been laid off in the United States, it could be easier to find workers to back-fill open positions.
- Maximizing automation – Many health care organizations have suggested that they are looking to expand their use of automation within their business functions.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis