Report: Health industry outsourcing clinical work

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"With financial pressures intensifying and the uptake of electronic record-keeping accelerating, analysts ... see more consolidation and outsourcing ahead" for insurers and hospitals, the report stated.

"People are looking at all the tasks that can safely and responsibly be moved," Dr. Kaveh Safavi told the paper.

Safavi heads the North American health practice for Accenture, a major consulting and outsourcing firm.

"It's still an emerging market," he said. "We're still trying to understand the market's tolerance for it."

Outsourcing helps health companies to cut costs and remain profitable, proponents argue. But advocates for patients and U.S. workers raised several concerns.

Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, called the trend "very disturbing."

"There are serious questions if you're talking about … making recommendations on procedures," he told the paper.

Others noted the high rate of unemployment in the United States, which is still struggling as it emerges from a recession.

WellPoint and Aetna outsource some positions, according to the report. UnitedHealth Group did not respond to the paper's inquiries.