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Medical professionals: Philippine IT-BPO wants you!

Medical BPO (business process outsourcing) is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Philippine IT-BPO industry. So although US visas for medical professionals have become scarce, there are other well-paying career opportunities for nurses and doctors that are coupled with the benefits of living at home near family and friends, and enjoying the magnificent lifestyle the Philippines offers.

Consider an example: while other nursing professionals spend their days and nights within a four-cornered nurses’ station typical of a Philippine or US hospital, registered nurse Katheryne Gutierrez spends her time in one of the country’s premiere corporate power centers, working in the healthcare management information outsourcing sector. While she’s here, however, her clients are abroad.

Despite her relative youth—I won’t reveal her actual age—Ms. Gutierrez is vice president for Clinical Quality and Compliance in the country’s premier and pioneering healthcare services providers, MediCall. Joining her in the room separated from the main office’s hustle and bustle are two other women who also hold key positions in the health information management outsourcing (HIMO) firm.

All of them are nursing professionals who traded the modest hospital life for a more ambitious?and many say more rewarding?corporate life. “I find more adventure here. In this career, you connect with people outside the Philippines. We’re like ambassadors of the Philippines to the world. We showcase the country’s workforce, which is composed of talented, highly skilled professionals,” Ms. Gutierrez said in a recent interview.

Her career didn’t develop the way her parents planned or expected, but Ms. Gutierrez says that she “worked her way up the career ladder” to ultimately realize how profoundly she loves her work. She traded her scrubs for suits in 2004 when she joined MediCall. It was quite a leap of faith. At the time, MediCall was a new startup. Ms. Gutierrez was not just walking away from a traditional healthcare services career, she was placing her faith in an untried venture.

As one of the firm’s first three Filipino employees, Ms. Gutierrez learned the business of the then-emerging field of health information management firsthand from MediCall’s co-founder and now president Jeff Williams, one of the sector’s most prominent pioneers. “My parents brought me up to be who I am but Jeff mentored me a lot to be the manager that I am,” Ms. Gutierrez said.

Now in her eighth year with Medicall, Ms. Gutierrez oversees training, quality assurance, licensing, and regulatory compliance. For her, a career in HIMO has shades of both corporate and healthcare life, only more vibrant, dynamic, and fulfilling.

“There is a lot to look forward to here every day. Hospital work is physically demanding. At MediCall, our job requires analytical thinking, so there’s great value in what we do. It is very rewarding to see other medical professionals stay with us because they believe they are part of something good,” she said.

In eight years, MediCall has grown from small startup stage into an established, global health service provider with offices in Manila and Cebu. It has almost 1,000 employees and serves clients throughout the United States.

But it’s not without challenges. Perhaps the greatest—for the entire sector—is migration of Filipino professionals. “It’s not true that there are no jobs for nurses other than low-paying positions in local hospitals. There are thousands of jobs waiting for nurses and other medical professionals in the HIMO sector,” Ms. Gutierrez said. But many healthcare professionals—both young and established professionals—are unaware of the opportunity.

To ensure a steady supply of nurses and doctors, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) is working closely with its partner association, the Healthcare Information Management Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (HIMOAP), sector players, government, and the academe to increase appreciation of the BPO industry’s thirst for a reliable supply of medical professionals.

That effort includes integrating HIMO services courses into the curricula of local nursing schools to prepare students for a career whose objective is to keep people healthy, not just well, according to Mr. Williams, who also serves as HIMOAP chairman. Ms. Gutierrez said that once employed in the HIMO sector, many medical professionals continue to work part-time in medical facilities to stay abreast of best practice, as well as to give back.

For the MediCall executive and other professionals working in the sector, work satisfaction isn’t merely a high-paying job and career opportunity. “I see myself continuing to grow with MediCall. I don’t see myself doing any other work. But I also see myself serving others?sharing this wonderful opportunity with other nurses and doctors and making HIMO careers known to everyone as a new way of providing healthcare services,” she said.

Filipinos are already known worldwide for the healthcare expertise. Now, they don’t have to go overseas to demonstrate it.

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author and commentator. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Copyright © 2012 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)