3 Common Myths About Work-at-Home Services in the Healthcare Industry
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3 Common Myths About Work-at-Home Services in the Healthcare Industry

Jim Farnsworth
Jim Farnsworth
EVP, Americas Business Development
Sykes Enterprises, Incorporated

Many healthcare companies won’t consider work-at-home solutions because of perceived concerns around security, HIPAA compliance and the ability to source qualified talent. While these are all important issues, it’s time to set the record straight, as misconceptions can keep healthcare companies from taking advantage of all viable options for solving difficult skills, staffing, cost and service challenges.

Considering the complex regulations and compliance requirements the healthcare industry must navigate, it’s not surprising that many executives have preferred to stick with staffing models that they know. However, because of how the work-at-home model has matured, there are now more flexible, proven and regulation-compliant options available to help ease staffing and service challenges.

Here’s the truth behind three common myths regarding work-at-home services in the healthcare industry:

Myth #1: A work-at-home model isn’t HIPAA-compliant or secure enough for handling sensitive healthcare information.

Busted: There are work-at-home outsourcing service providers that use advanced security and privacy measures that are fully HIPAA compliant, which can and should be verified through third-party auditors. For example, SYKESHome is audited annually to certify compliance with both HIPAA and PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) requirements. For more on work-at-home security measures, check out my previous article.

Moreover, the work-at-home model is a tested and proven solution — you don’t have to worry about being the first to adopt it. Leaders such as Aetna, Cigna, United Health and Humana are already deploying home-based staff, according to FlexJobs, a leading job search site specializing in professional telecommuting.

Myth #2: A virtual workforce doesn’t offer the right qualifications to meet specific needs in the healthcare industry.

Busted: In reality, opening up talent sourcing beyond geographic boundaries with a work-at-home option actually increases access to the best candidates with specific qualifications and can potentially decrease labor costs. By working with a customer-service provider with proven experience in both the healthcare industry and virtual workforce management, companies can target talent for specific skills and certifications.

With geography working as a talent-sourcing ally instead of a constraint, you can even source talent in specific states to meet requirements of government-sponsored healthcare plans. In addition, because today’s complex healthcare environment is more consumer driven than ever, consumers want to speak with educated agents who understand the myriad plan options and changes in benefits. In this case, it’s beneficial to have work-at-home agents who live in the same market as your target customers, because they are navigating the same choices themselves. FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics also state that the average telecommuter tends to be older and more educated than in-office workers — a demographic more experienced in buying products themselves.

Myth #3: Healthcare consumers don’t want to access services virtually.

Busted: As telehealth services rapidly expand, research shows that healthcare consumers are embracing the concept. A recent survey shows more than 75 percent of healthcare consumers would be willing to “see” a doctor virtually, but less than 20 percent have already used telehealth services. The study, conducted by the Advisory Board Company’s Market Innovation Center, suggests that there’s a major gap between the consumer interest in telehealth services and the healthcare industry’s ability to meet that demand.

Just as telecommuting has gained popularity among the workforce, the work-at-home model has become increasingly attractive to healthcare companies and consumers. And according to the Advisory Board, a company that focuses on best practices and improving performance in the healthcare industry, the reasons are much the same: increased convenience and access, and the opportunity to both receive and provide more personalized care and service. In fact, the survey revealed that Kaiser Permanente conducted more than half of its 2016 patient encounters virtually, 63 percent of healthcare providers already use a form of telehealth and 90 percent of large employers planned to offer telehealth services in 2017.

Advantages of a Healthcare System Without Walls

As healthcare continues to become a more consumer-driven industry, the work-at-home model will play an important role in helping healthcare companies adapt to the changing dynamics. Working with a trusted customer-care partner with longtime experience in deploying the work-at-home model will allow companies to leapfrog past technology and security challenges without taking on huge risks and upfront investments. For example, SYKESHome has been providing work-at-home outsourcing services since 1997.

The dual challenges of holding down costs while maintaining — or even improving — effective delivery of healthcare requires the industry to adopt a transformational model that integrates the multi-channel technology and service solutions available in our digital age. Deploying the work-at-home business model for services and care in the right areas will help companies meet difficult compliance requirements and improve patient care and service.