Antares Management Solutions: Kenneth Sidon, President, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer

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Surviving in the health care industry today can be a challenge, particularly for a 75-year old insurance company with four million subscribers. With that many records, and security an issue with the advent of nationwide medical databases, providers need to be flexible.

That’s where Medical Mutual Services executive vice president and CIO Kenneth Sidon believes his company has an advantage over the competition.

“We need to be positioned to react quickly,” he said. “Being able to react quickly is going to be so critical in the next year or two. That will be essential to the survival of any company in the health care industry.”

Security is paramount, and that’s where Medical Mutual subsidiary Antares Management Solutions can help, by providing IT assistance to meet those new-found security needs. Antares, founded in 1997, provides business process outsourcing for the insurance industry, as well as IT outsourcing, for approximately 30 companies across industry lines, including its parent company. The Strongsville, Ohio, company, with close to 500 employees, is focused on IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO).

“The BPO line handles more of a PPA health care type of arrangement, helping other small players in that arena,” Sidon said. “The ITO is strictly an IT support shop in which they do outsourcing for all types of industries, whether it’s manufacturing, banking or health care.”

Sidon, who has been with Medical Mutual in various capacities for 32 years, also handles operations for Antares.

Quality Focus

While maintaining competitive pricing is important to the company’s success, Sidon points to Antares partnership-like relationship with its clients as true signs of what keeps the company focused.

“What we really focus on as a major driver is quality,” he said. “Price is obviously important, so if you’re not competitive you won’t succeed. But, we believe that quality and delivery of service is paramount.”

Growth in Today’s Economy

Since the company’s IT and business practices services are both outsourced, maintaining a pipeline of potential business can be tough, Sidon said. However, as companies look to cut costs, they often turn to outsourced solutions.

“Antares is seeing an increase in business,” he said. “On the Medical Mutual side, there’s a turndown in the industry where, while we’re having success with our clients, we’re seeing some downturn in business due to layoffs in our clients’ firms.

Reaching the Market

With companies looking to save money and curtail spending, outsourcing services can fulfill specialized needs with tailored solutions. Because Antares supports a $2 billion company in Medical Mutual, they’re built to deliver on size, Sidon said.

“What we can do for you is only charge you when you want to use us, and for the slice you want to use at that time,” he said.

As an example of this level of service, many companies today are paying for disaster recovery at required security levels. Antares is able to determine how much time a client will need to cover only the services they require, and bill accordingly.

“We already have all the systems in place,” Sidon said. “They only have to pay for their small addition to what we’re already doing. Then we partner with them on quality and service.”

Antares has grown its business primarily through word-of-mouth and references. The company also looks to existing clients who work internationally, providing extended consulting services as the company expands around the world.

“These are typically small companies and as they continue to grow we can help them support expansion across the oceans,” he said. “If they can grow, we grow with them.”

Industry Partners

Medical Mutual’s flexibility extends to its partner relationships as well, Sidon said. The organization works with many companies – from IBM to WebMD. The company looks to Gartner’s technology business research for some direction on which vendors might be the best players for a particular product or service.

“Different technology has different leaders,” he said. “You need to ensure that you capitalize on those as much as you can.”

Also, due to the nature of outsourcing, it helps the company remain flexible by having numerous partner relationships.

“We’re able to operate on multiple platforms and perform with more flexibility,” he added. “This enables us to serve our clients better, in that we can deal with more than one platform.”

Medical Mutual Initiatives

Medical Mutual is currently undergoing a three-year modernization project that involves refurbishing the parent company’s core systems, including membership, eligibility, provider relations and provider claims.

“We knew we needed to do this to be more flexible in the future,” he said. “As things are happening, we need to have a base for incorporating different types of new products.”

The company is also concentrating on security, particularly due to HIPAA regulations compliance. As the country moves toward a nationwide database of medical information, attention to security now will pay off down the road, Sidon said.

“This is an important piece,” he said, “to make sure we have the linkage and the flexibility as well as a way to protect that type of data.”

Industry Recognition

Antares has been recognized both for its success as an outsourcing service provider and as an employer. Nationally, Computerworld has honored the company for the past four years as one of the “Best Places to Work in IT.” On a regional level, the organization was named one of NorthCoast 99’s best places to work for nine straight years; a NEO Success Award Winner for three years running; and a Leading Edge Award Winner for two years in a row. These awards recognize such accomplishments as company success and employee satisfaction.

“We are nominated by our employees for a couple of these awards and that’s what adds significance,” Sidon said. “When you’re the corporation and you hear an employee say ‘Wow, what a great company to work for’ you’re doing a nice job all the way around.”

Staying ahead of changes in the health care industry can be hard work. Medical Mutual and Antares have been rewarded in the industry for providing satisfaction to clients and employees alike.

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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