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The Future of Healthcare: “Patient engagement needs to be redefined” with Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox

Patient engagement needs to be redefined. Simply pushing a message through a portal isn’t working anymore. In order to really reach patients where they are, providers have to use the same tools and channels that other businesses use to engage customers. Patient engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a strategy that needs options based on […]

Patient engagement needs to be redefined. Simply pushing a message through a portal isn’t working anymore. In order to really reach patients where they are, providers have to use the same tools and channels that other businesses use to engage customers. Patient engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a strategy that needs options based on patient preference with voicemail, email and text. That’s how we communicate with each other and how we expect businesses to reach out to us. In order to really partner with patients on their care, providers have to use new channels to connect and drive better relationships.


Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox. With a successful track record in high-growth healthcare technology organizations and helping organizations use technology to transform the way care is delivered, Mike provides data-driven leadership and aggressive growth orientation with deep experience across marketing, product management, business development and operational disciplines. Prior to Updox, Mike was senior vice president of Marketing for Netsmart, an electronic health record provider, which grew to become the dominant leader in the behavioral health market.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

What’s particularly interesting to me is how healthcare touches everyone on a universal level. At some point, you’re either a patient, caregiver or a provider. And technology is finally helping connect all of these groups together for a better experience for all.

Seven years ago, the healthcare industry didn’t understand patient engagement or the term CRM. Electronic health record systems were still in their adolescence, and a gap existed in how physicians were communicating with each other. Coming from an EHR background myself, I knew there had to be a better way than post-it notes, old-fashioned fax machines and phone calls to share vital messages about patient treatment.

It wasn’t enough to digitize patient records. To deliver on the promise of better outcomes and lower costs, healthcare providers needed to also digitize the ways they collaborated internally, with other providers, and with patients.

Updox was aligned with only a few of the top EHR providers at the time. Today, I’m proud that Updox has grown from a document management solution provider to a complete collaboration platform for physicians and pharmacies serving more than 300,000+ users and 100 million patients nationwide. It’s connected with more than 150 EHR partners but can also operate as a stand-alone product. It’s truly making a difference in how providers collaborate and engage patients.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s always nice to see solutions we’ve developed being used in helpful and innovative ways. For example, when we discovered a rural practice in Jonesborough, Tennessee was using Updox to reach 80 percent of their patients online and off the phone, that was a real “aha” moment. It felt like we’d hit something big. Even in their small town, patients appreciated the convenience of being able to communicate with their doctor in new ways. So if it can work there, it can work anywhere.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

A lack of secure provider-to-provider communications remains a problem in healthcare. Many practices are still stuck using 1980s fax technology and manual phone calls. However, Updox really stands out as the gold standard for electronic secure communications between providers and patients. People have even started using our name as a verb. When they are calling in for support, a customer might say they were “Updoxing” a prior authorization or test result. It’s just like someone might say they “Googled” something to mean they searched for it online.

That’s a big achievement. It really shows us the impact of our solutions in the daily operations of our customers, and it’s something we take pride in.

What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?

Healthcare leaders should focus their efforts on solving the problems of the people that actually provide care, such as physicians, nurses or other staff. Adopting new solutions simply for technology’s sake or without thinking about the way many solutions will interact together is a recipe for failure. Your product has to be meaningful and solve the end-user’s problems for it to be successful.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

  1. We are still lacking true coordination of care. The foundation of care coordination is fluidity of communication among the care team throughout the continuum. All parties involved in a patient’s care — from primary care physicians to pharmacists — must have the ability to share information in a secure environment. Currently, there are flaws in the system and information is not being shared appropriately. This can lead to redundant tests or services, and often times heavily impacts those that have chronic conditions.
  2. Patient engagement needs to be redefined. Simply pushing a message through a portal isn’t working anymore. In order to really reach patients where they are, providers have to use the same tools and channels that other businesses use to engage customers. Patient engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a strategy that needs options based on patient preference with voicemail, email and text. That’s how we communicate with each other and how we expect businesses to reach out to us. In order to really partner with patients on their care, providers have to use new channels to connect and drive better relationships.
  3. The healthcare industry is not thought of or run like a business. Consumer information is scarce, individuals do not have enough choices, and the trust cost of healthcare is — more often than not — hidden from patients. In order to drive greater health outcomes and lower costs, our industry must be run like any other business.

Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

In my opinion, we need to fix the system so that individuals are more personally responsible for the cost of their own healthcare and care plans. In doing so, we’ll see patients start to take a greater interest and role in their health outcomes, and we’ll also see them become more passionate, empowered and engaged in their health.

Corporations (in our case — physicians providing care) need to be more proactive and consistent in the way they collaborate with one another and the broader care team. Providers, pharmacists, patients need to come together and work together fluidly in order for this to happen. It’s not just exchanging a data file or entering data into the EHR and calling it a day. There has to be a platform these parties can use to communicate and collaborate in its entirety. Today’s healthcare technology can significantly help with this.

From a community standpoint, there is where population health comes into play. Providers in specific areas work hard every day to improve the health of their communities. With a stronger emphasis on patient education through innovative technology, such as patient portals, secure provider-patient texting, video chat, etc., we can continue to impact more lives and change health outcomes.

Finally, healthcare leaders must continually push for change. We need a renewed focus on the providers of care — those that are on the frontlines. I like to refer to this as helping providers be the quarterbacks of effective patient care. As leaders in the industry, we must work together to arm providers with the tools they need to communicate securely and efficiently, not only to engage with their patients, but also with other healthcare organizations. Without this two-way interaction, both the quality of care and the patient experience will suffer.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

Healthcare consumers receive care from many sources. For example, they may have a primary care doctor they see for regular appointments, a specialist or two they visit to manage a chronic condition, an urgent care clinic to receive acute treatment for a nasty cold, and a community pharmacy that takes care of their yearly flu shot.

The unifying theme here is convenience. Patients expect to be treated like the customers that they are. They are paying a larger share of healthcare costs, and in the process, they are comparing the value of each provider in their continuum of care.

Excellent healthcare providers find a way to improve the customer experience. These providers offer both quality of care and quality of service as part of the overall customer experience.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Earlier this year we unveiled Updox Video Chat, which enables outpatient providers to incorporate live video patient interactions into their practice. Video Chat is now included in our Updox Engagement suite to help providers meet patients where they are — on their phones. Within the Updox platform, providers, staff and healthcare partners can use Video Chat for care coordination consultations; patient adherence checks; chronic care management activities or connecting with care teams, office staff, other providers and pharmacies. Video Chat is also an ideal option for serving rural patients who, while comprising at least 15 percent of the U.S. population, face significant healthcare inequitiescompared to urban and suburban residents. Currently, we are working with the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics to expand their patient engagement capabilities, including Video Chat, to ensure rural, underserved patients have access to quality care.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can connect with me personally on LinkedIn, or they can also follow Updox’s social media accounts for daily news and announcements on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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