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New center in S.A. unites health care services
May 21, 2008

By William Pack

A 2-year-old collaborative between two publicly traded health care companies has reached a tangible outcome in San Antonio — the Medco Center for Health Action, aimed at improving health services and reducing health costs nationwide.

The center brings together specialists from Medco Health Solutions Inc., one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the country, and Healthways, a provider of health care counseling and support services. The aim is to improve health coverage for company employees, state workers and others who are their members.

“We know this will make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States,” Dr. Glen Stettin, an internist and general manager of the advanced clinical solutions group for Medco, said at ribbon-cutting ceremonies Tuesday for the 15,000-square-foot facility on the Northwest Side.

It also will mean more than 200 jobs for San Antonio when the facility reaches capacity. About 80 people work at the newly refurbished office on Silicon Drive, which opened in March north of the USAA campus. Stettin said San Antonio's wealth of health care professionals was a key reason the companies chose the city for their first joint location.

“This really is a great community from which to recruit,” said Stettin, who also is senior vice president.

Outside of the facility's management team, almost all of the employees have been hired locally.

The collaborative formed by Medco and Healthways two years ago — called “Optimal Health” — combines up-to-the-minute pharmaceutical knowledge and therapeutic expertise about clients.

While employees of the two companies have communicated with each other about member needs by computer or over the phone, the new center places them side by side for more frequent and hopefully more meaningful collaboration, company executives said.

The companies handle patients with chronic conditions that require regular attention. Recently, some of their focus has gone to address patients' weight problems, smoking habits or other risky conditions that can lead to problems later.

Tom Cox, Healthways senior vice president who is leading the company's alliance with Medco, said the initiative intends to design innovative solutions that will allow people to live healthier and to pay less for health care.

“This is where it's going to come to life in San Antonio,” Cox said.

The new office has been in operation since March after a $3 million to $4 million upgrade to the facility that includes new technology designed to get the best information to health experts who are assisting clients. Officials could not predict when the facility would reach its 200-person capacity, but Stettin said he sees it “as a model that will quickly catch on.”

Neither Medco, with a prescription drug benefits program that covers about one in every five Americans, nor Healthways, which provides health care assistance to more than 2.5 million members, had an office in San Antonio before the center was opened.

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