Gary and Mary West: Improving Health Care Through Disruption

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  December 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

For years, Americans have prospered like people in no other country on earth because our class-free society allowed virtually anyone with a good idea to launch a company, hire, prosper and keep the majority of the fruits of their labor. A competitive entrepreneurial culture further fostered an environment in which successful businesspeople went from being entrepreneurs to serial entrepreneurs.

Even more impressive, so many of these successful businesspeople seem to reach a point in their careers where they don’t feel satisfied helping society through their inventions and hiring, they want to focus on problems with society and fix them directly.

Such is the case with Gary and Mary West – two legends in the call center space as founders of West Corp.

As you may know, in 1982 TMC (News - Alert) launched the first magazine in the world in the call center space. At the time we called it Telemarketing. Of course, it now is the magazine you are reading: Customer Interaction Solutions.

Believe it or not, the term call center wasn't coined until the late eighties. And one of our areas of focus was on the outsourcing space, which at that time was done virtually all domestically in places like Iowa and Nebraska.

For decades, West Corp. (News - Alert) constantly placed high on lists of contact center outsourcing companies TMC ranked. This past decade the company, which currently employs around 35,000 people, evolved by promoting home-agent outsourcing. That allowed U.S. workers to be more cost-competitive with their international competition from countries like India.

And recently Gary and Mary announced the formation of West Health Investment Fund LLC, a $100 million fund to provide risk capital to lower health care costs and invigorate low cost health care innovation. The company explains the rising health care costs are an unsustainable burden on our economy and, moreover, that the fund will help bring disruptive solutions to market to help solve the problem.

The initial portfolio of the fund is as follows:

  • Biological Dynamics, whose next-generation diagnostics technology may enable physicians to detect cancer from a simple blood draw and rapidly intervene, increasing patient survivability while driving down the cost of care;
  • Change Healthcare, whose web-based decision support tool Transparency Messenger provides consumers with personalized views of pricing information and alerts on where to save money on routine health care services including medical, dental and prescriptions;
  • goBalto, whose new generation web-based solutions simplify pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device clinical research;
  • Healthsense, whose in-home monitoring sensors and solutions alert family members and providers of potential health problems before they become acute, enabling seniors to remain healthy and independent;
  • Humedica, a clinical informatics company whose cutting-edge analytics for health care organizations delivers a truly longitudinal and comprehensive view of patient care; and
  • Sotera Wireless, whose new generation of continuous vital signs monitoring improves the safety of patients on the general floor of hospitals, while at the same time reducing costs.

This announcement comes at an interesting time as there seems to be intense media exposure for a group of a few thousand “occupy” protesters and union members who seem to think that wealthy people and corporations are not contributing enough to society. And when I hear such comments I wonder why the press never asks them – What about the company that invented life-saving cancer treatments or medicines to combat AIDS? What about the company that invented better fertilizers or seeds to help reduce world hunger? And what about the technology companies that helped third-world companies rife with poverty more quickly evolve into first world powerhouses? Brazil comes to mind.

So hats off to Gary and Mary. They have been held in the highest esteem here at TMC for many decades and although I didn’t think it possible, they just topped themselves.

Rich Tehrani is CEO and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert), one of the world’s largest and best-attended communications and technology conferences. Rich has also developed a large and loyal readership for his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi