Movers & Shakers: Mike Morgan on Healthcare, the Future and Being Thoughtful

Mike Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Updox in Dublin, Ohio

Mike Morgan has a good eye for startups: he’s been an entrepreneur, an investor, a CEO. The —underlying theme? A passion for watching things grow. Like a mad scientist of sorts, Morgan and his team at Updox are hard at work answering an age-old question for those in the healthcare space: why is communication and the integration between patients and providers so difficult? For Morgan, life doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why Dublin’s Updox is equally obsessed with streamlining everything from appointments to prescription refills. We sat down with the man behind Updox’s 120 million+ patient reach to understand what it’s like to lead one of Ohio’s fastest-growing startups.

What was your childhood like?

That’s an interesting question. I was trying to think of the best way to answer that, because it might sound a little hokey, but I had a very happy childhood. My parents were a strong influence in how I grew up and the work ethic I have today. I grew up in Heath, which is a small town. I think that demographic was good for me. I knew a lot of people and got to play a lot of sports. It was also good because it encouraged my general curiosity — I was allowed to venture out on my own and seek out the things I was interested in. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t contribute, in some way, to why I’m so inclined to be a part of startups.

What was your first job?

Interestingly, my first job was actually in retail. I was selling clothes in a department store, so I was interacting with customers of all ages. A lot of this was happening before technology — there weren’t checkout registers to hide behind. There was definitely a lot of direct customer interaction and assistance. I had to adhere to the “customer is always right,” attitude. I think that’s what taught me a lot about considering customers from a sales point of view. Like, when there were disputes, I had to kind of work through them verbally with a customer instead of relying on some pre-written apology or motto.

Now that you’re in the tech business, what interests you about the intersection of technology and healthcare?

What’s really exciting about healthcare is that it touches everybody. You’re either a patient, a family member/caregiver or provider. I find that there are very few things that touch everybody, on a universal level, and healthcare is one of them. The second reason — and this isn’t necessarily a negative, it’s just the reality of the space — is that there are a lot of problems in healthcare, and so much opportunity to innovate and fix things to make people happy and healthy. It’s very rare that you get an industry that touches everybody, yet still has so much frustration. But that’s where I see the potential of technology: how can we fix this?

You founded Lifting Hopes before coming to Updox. How do your other passions fuel your current goals or endeavors?

There are a lot of similarities between Lifting Hopes and Updox. Both are concerned with helping people and thinking about problems in new and different ways. For Lifting Hopes, we felt like there were some opportunities in the community that were underserved. We were helping families that were battling pediatric cancer by easing the burden that happens during treatment — things like transportation and getting to doctor’s appointments. We also host a variety of fundraisers as a way to support families dealing with a cancer diagnosis. So Lifting Hopes definitely fuels my passion. I think I’m always asking, “Hey, if there’s a problem out there that’s not met, how can we bring together groups of passionate people to work together and solve those things?”

Is there anything completely different from what you’re doing now that influences or inspires you?

I’ve got three kids ranging from eight to 13 years old, so a lot of time is spent there. I try hard to coach one kid in something each season to stay part of their lives and the community. It’s funny because even with sports, being around people that are excited to do what they do inspires me. An opportunity to teach, coach or lead? That’s what I love to do and love to do for my family.

You were brought in as CEO of Updox. What were you looking for when you went to work there?

I was working with an electronic health record company and loved it. If you think about the evolution of healthcare and technology, 20 years ago most people didn’t have their records digitized. At my former company, we spent a lot of time working with companies to help them digitize their paper records, but once they were digitized, I wondered where the technology was going. The real goal in healthcare is to provide better care, create better outcomes and do it at a reduced cost. So, Updox provided the next evolution of where healthcare tech was going. It wasn’t only about digitizing records but asking how you can help people collaborate and communicate more effectively. It was the perfect chance to make a big difference.

You’re from Ohio. Has growing up in the Midwest in any way shaped your attitudes towards business or company culture?

I think Midwesterners still like to think of ourselves as being aggressive, but I think we’re also very thoughtful about the way we build the business. We ensure that we’re building something sustainable in the long-term, not trying to rule the world in a year. At Updox we talk about the difference between culture and core values. So, culture evolves, and we want it to evolve, but our core values should stay the same. Ours are empathy, creativity and hard work, which I think is really grounded in the Midwest.

Any aspect of company culture that’s surprisingly important?

The amount of reinforcement and communication that needs to happen. When we were 15 employees, it was very different because we were all together and we all knew what was happening. As we’ve grown bigger, we’ve had to be a little bit more deliberate and frequent about our communication. Everybody really gets the mission, they understand it, they’re passionate about it, but I think it takes a lot more effort to try to make sure it’s reinforced through our communication.

What is the biggest change in healthcare you’d like to see?

I’d love to see patients take more ownership of their care, including the cost of their care. I think providers should get paid for the quality of care they provide and the improvement in health outcomes. If you think about it, when patients are treated like customers, they have the chance to choose certain treatments or treatment providers. I think it would be great if patients were more empowered to make that decision. In fact, that empowerment is going to be the true catalyst that ripples through the whole industry. Providers would have to be more focused on customer or patient satisfaction and be more open about their outcomes. I think we’re moving in that direction because a lot of our technology helps healthcare providers run their practices or pharmacies more like businesses, and patients be treated more like customers.

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