Healthcare management system streamlines exchanges with doctors and patients.

Patients at Family Medicine of Jonesborough in eastern Tennessee schedule appointments and see lab results online. They get time with their doctor and chat about new puppies and grandkids with his wife and office manager. The independent medical practice and thousands more around the country rely on healthcare technology company Updox for the time and resources needed to serve their patients.

Dublin-based Updox heals a major pain point in the healthcare delivery system identified nearly 10 years ago by its founders. Independent providers such as Michael Jewett, MD, in Jonesborough had no streamlined way to communicate with their patients or each other.

“It shocked us that in 2008—and even in 2015—that the average medical provider faxed 1,200 pages a month,” says cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Mike Witting.

Witting says the solution started with practicing neurologist Andrew Barbash, MD, and his concept of a social network for medical practitioners. Barbash joined forces with Witting, Mark Shary and Tobin Juday, and the four combined their backgrounds in medicine, technology and entrepreneurship to build the technology and the business.

The result was Updox, a customer-relationship management system that allows independent providers to send secure electronic faxes and emails, offer online patient portals, accept payments, and communicate with other providers and pharmacists.

New government regulations on electronic medical records have brought countless new technology companies into the market, but Updox continues to provide a more comprehensive suite of solutions as well as relationships with the people behind its products. CEO Michael Morgan says there are competitors for some of what Updox offers, but no other company offers as complete a product or as many participating providers.

“Over 50 million patients—18 percent of the population—are in the Updox system,” says Morgan. He sees even more growth in the company's future because there are more than 500,000 independent providers in specialties such as pharmacy, optometry and dentistry. The evolving healthcare model helps as well.

“We're solving pragmatic problems today with the benefit of setting you up for success in the new world,” Morgan says.

Kari Jewett managed 200 faxes a day, plus phone calls and other patient needs for her husband's practice in Tennessee.

“Updox came along and told us they could make it all electronic,” she says. “It's the whole backbone of our practice.”

Updox benefits patients as well. Morgan says the system gives patients confidence in more coordinated care.

“As consumers of healthcare, we've all felt the pain of moving between providers. Wherever you move in the care continuum, your information will be in the right place at the right time,” he says.

More than 40,000 physicians and 60 electronic health-records vendors nationwide use Updox, and the numbers continue to increase. In 2016, Inc. magazine ranked Updox in the top 10 percent of its Inc. 5000 list of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. The company now has a staff of 58.

Co-founder Witting says central Ohio was a great place to start a business with its strong investment opportunities and “good, solid Midwest values.”

“This environment allowed us to pragmatically build the company stably and sanely,” he says, remembering the early days of meetings at Caribou Coffee and using shower curtains as

inexpensive dry-erase boards. “We were very conscious about the culture as we grew and hired more people.”

Morgan adds that there are many resources for businesses to start and grow in the area. Updox worked with Rev1 Ventures and received funding from JobsOhio.

“There's also just a general environment where larger organizations are open and collaborative with helping new companies get started. There's a good healthcare presence and a Midwest mentality of collaboration,” Morgan says, noting that OhioHealth, Mount Carmel and larger technology groups were generous with time and mentorship.

Using Updox, Michael Jewett's family medical practice sees 12 to 15 patients daily, accepts all insurances, and handles scheduling, billing and patient care with a full-time staff of two.

“The reason I love Updox and why I will be eternally grateful is that it has allowed my husband to practice medicine the way he always wanted to,” says Kari Jewett. “Updox stands alone on this little island saying, ‘We care. We want you to take care of patients and go home at the end of the day and be with your family.'”

Mary Sterenberg is a freelance writer.