Michael Morgan, CEO, Updox

Updox is running out of room in its Frantz Road offices. Fueled by $12.7 million in venture capital—the largest single round given to a central Ohio company in 2017—the healthcare communications software startup added some 40 new employees over the past six months, bringing its grand total to 100 or so.

That hiring binge highlights the company's impressive upward trajectory. Founded in 2009 with four employees, Updox now serves more than 300,000 users and 72 million patients, while its software is integrated with more than 100 types of electronic health records. Last year, the company strengthened its ties with pharmacies through a partnership with Creative Pharmacist, a Georgia software startup that serves more than 1,000 independent pharmacies. And this spring, Updox—named VentureOhio's 2017 Growth Stage Company of the Year—will move into more spacious and stylish digs in Dublin's new Bridge Park development.

“The big thing that we talk about is simplifying the business of healthcare,” says Updox CEO Michael Morgan. “That's really what we're rallying behind because that's what the industry needs. Simplification leads to better care and better costs and better businesses.”

The idea for Updox came from Dr. Andrew Barbash, a neurologist from Rockville, Maryland, with an active telemedicine practice who was looking for a better way to communicate with patients and healthcare providers throughout the country. He came up with the name Updox and, through a friend, connected with Mark Shary, a central Ohio serial entrepreneur. The pair and two others—Mike Witting and Tobin Juday—founded the company, and in 2012, they were joined by the current CEO Morgan, who previously worked for the Kansas-based healthcare IT company Netsmart.

“The big problem was electronic health records were being adopted at record rates, and it digitized everything inside of a practice,” Morgan says. “There was no easy, secure way to manage the communications with everybody outside of the practice, including the patients or other physicians, the care team and anybody else. Everything was still manual. It was phone calls. It was paper-based and even old-fashioned mail, and it wasn't conducive for the patient. What the patient needed is this real-time communication about their care.”

Through its messaging network and platform of apps, Updox provides a more secure means than email for communicating digitally in the heavily regulated field of healthcare. The company also made a strategic decision to focus on small practices rather than hospitals, unlike many other tech companies, and integrated its software with the new generation of electronic health records. “There was about three or four years of some really serious, sort of business-level discipline and some strategic alliances,” says Barbash. Adds Morgan: “The first few years were just all about getting the technology right and kind of getting things going.”

Then the company added new capabilities—such as scheduling, credit-card payments, health alerts and digital portals for patients to communicate with their doctors—and targeted physician partners, such as laboratories, pharmacies, payers and rehab facilities. With its expanded services, Updox officials now view their software as a customer relationship management platform—a Salesforce for healthcare, if you will—that addresses the ongoing push for care providers to think of themselves more as businesses. “This is a very, very big opportunity because we already have such a big network of people using Updox, and it's right there where the industry is going, basically being able to help them achieve this transformation,” Morgan says.

Even though he came up with the idea and owns a share of the business, Barbash wasn't involved with Updox until he started using the software for his practice about 18 months ago. Now, he says he's “probably one of the busiest users of Updox,” which he describes as a “universal inbox” or a “big catcher's mitt” that allows him to work more efficiently, improve patient satisfaction and provide better care. “It's pretty dramatic,” Barbash says. “I probably take on tasks that other people don't. Most people don't bother trying to get follow-up from families, because if they do it any way other than the way I do it, it would take them so much time and energy, and they would feel like they're putting themselves at risk.”

He predicts people may use Updox as a verb some day, like they do with Google or FedEx today. “I think [Updox] should be a household word within a couple of years, if this is done properly,” he says.

Finalists

Neal Patel, DDS, Infinite Smiles

Neal Patel is both an accomplished dentist and a sought-after educator who's lectured and trained thousands of dentists on the use of high-tech dental equipment.

Patel has worked with Dentsply Sirona, the world's largest dental manufacturer, on developing breakthroughs in medical imaging and treatment. After opening his Powell dental practice Infinite Smiles in 2008, Patel has remained active with Dentsply Sirona, performing more than 300 lectures to fellow dentists on multiple continents, including 70 live surgeries and dozens of training sessions per year.

“He has risen to this status in dentistry in a surprisingly short amount of time,” says Michael Augins, group senior vice president for U.S. commercial organization for Dentsply Sirona. “He is the youngest speaker that is qualified to conduct our advanced training seminars.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio

Dee Anders, CEO and Executive Director

The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is the largest in the world. Located next to Nationwide Children's Hospital, it offers 137 guest rooms, allowing families to stay close to their children as they undergo medical care.

Under the leadership of CEO Dee Anders, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio also has expanded its services beyond its guest house. In June 2017, the nonprofit opened its first Ronald McDonald Family Room in central Ohio. The 1,000-square-foot-space next to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital offers a comforting place within a medical facility. Amenities include a kitchen and dining area, reclining chairs, a workspace with complimentary Wi-Fi and complimentary laundry and shower services.

“It is truly an honor to be the first hospital in central Ohio to offer the Ronald McDonald Family Room to the families of our NICU patients,” says Brian Jepson, president of Riverside Methodist. “While our care teams work diligently to improve the lives of our youngest patients, the new family room allows us to extend that same compassionate care to our NICU families.”