ND Founders Profile #25: This Healthcare Innovator Doesn’t Think Outside the Box. There Is No Box.

Author: Melanie Lux

Facebook Web Nd Founders Tony Michuda Tony Michuda (management consulting and sustainability, class of 2013) co-founded inHealth in 2013


Company Founded: inHealth Corporation Year Graduated: 2013
Title: Executive Vice President and Co-Founder Degree: B.B.A., Management Consulting and Sustainability
Location: Chicago, IL Residence Hall: Fisher

As a toddler, Tony Michuda followed his father around on the golf course, Little Tykes clubs in hand. From there, his passion for the sport and his competitive spirit grew. During his junior year in high school, he competed for the state championship as a member of his school’s varsity golf team. While Michuda didn’t win, the tournament became a major turning point in his life.

“The boys golf champion that year spent the spring semester at the IMG Golf Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He was head and shoulders above everyone, including me. I knew I needed to do something drastic to take my game to the next level to play in college. I asked my dad if I could go to school there, too; he didn’t bat an eye. He said, ‘If you’re passionate about it, I’ll support you. So at 16 years old, I applied, was accepted, and packed up and moved to Florida,” Michuda says.

For two years, the teenager ate, slept, and breathed golf with other players from around the world. The experience was life changing. “At first, it was a bit of a shock. I went from being number one in my bubble to being around some of the best junior golfers in the world. We were, for all intents and purposes, professionals. The work ethic and level of competition was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It makes you grow up quickly.”

Golf taught Michuda important lessons about who he is as a person. “I learned to take calculated risks. You can play the same course a million different ways, but ultimately, you choose how to play it and take responsibility for the results. That’s not just golf, that’s life. That’s business,” he says.

He wanted to play golf professionally, but as a fourth generation legacy of the University of Notre Dame, college came first. But something unexpected happened. While other universities were recruiting Michuda to play golf, Notre Dame didn’t. That was a hard reality check for someone who had invested so much of his life to achieve excellence in a sport. 

Michuda chose to play through the disappointment. He turned down the scholarship offers from other colleges, applied to Notre Dame and was accepted. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps in engineering, he forged a new path in business. And, instead of trying out for golf as a walk on, he joined the club sailing program where he met his future wife.

Looking back, he made the right call. “I never looked back at my golf career as a failure. It got me exactly where I needed to be. It’s getting me exactly where I want to go.” 

After graduation, Michuda moved to New York City to study real estate development and soon earned a real estate broker’s license. While showing a high-end rental property, he overheard a conversation: his client wanted to break into the Chicago market with his healthcare laboratory business. Sensing an opportunity, Michuda offered introductions in his hometown (Chicago). The client offered him a job.

Despite never having worked in health care, he jumped at the opportunity. “God opens doors for us; we just have to walk through them,” he says.

Within three years, Michuda had risen to vice president of Health System Services at Assurity Labs, having played an instrumental role in turning what was a local company into a nationally respected turnkey laboratory services provider to primary care, urgent care, pain management, and behavioral health practices. In 2018, the Medical Group Management Association recognized Assurity Labs as one of the Top Five Innovators in Healthcare alongside IBM Watson Health. 

Seeing an opportunity to take the onsite laboratory model to health systems on a national scale, Michuda left Assurity Labs to found a new startup company, inHealth, with partners Trent McCallson and Ken Lukhard. 

“As with medical practices, health systems outsource much of their lab testing. This may work for some patient populations, but not all. Toxicology screening is a specific and growing need as a person’s drug use can impact their treatment protocol and outcome. Health systems can bring these tests in house and tailor them to the needs of their specific patient populations, which supports better patient care, lowers cost and drives value,” he explains.

The barriers to entry were high for the inHealth model. Although health care admits to having problems, the industry is slow to change largely because of top-down, monolithic decision-making. Recognizing this, inHealth recruited former hospital CEOs to the team as channel partners to accelerate introductions. 

inHealth had another barrier to overcome: Michuda’s age. Health system leaders are typically 50 plus; Michuda is not yet 30. Undeterred, he drew upon his golf training. He surveyed the course and decided on an approach: straight down the fairway.

“It was hard to argue with our message. A market optimized laboratory program can help drive a system's value proposition in the communities they serve, capture valuable population health data, create new market opportunities, and improve revenue. I showed them what could be not how things are,” he says. “I got their attention.” 

He also made an impression. In less than two years, inHealth has gone from a single product startup to a diversified healthcare innovation provider with a portfolio of health system clients across the country. In addition to diagnostic labs, the company offers a spectrum of solutions that include virtual medicine kiosks, infection control in the wake of COVID19, artificial intelligence tools for radiologists, and renewable energy solutions to reduce energy costs while enabling health systems to support a healthier environment.

Michuda believes the coronavirus pandemic and the havoc it has caused for the U.S. healthcare industry will force innovation by serving as a “reset button.” Already, inHealth has experienced an uptick in business, with current customers fast-tracking projects.

“It’s become obvious that health care must be more proactive, more available and more affordable. What does that look like? The common denominator is technology,” Michuda says.

“We started inHealth to fix our broken healthcare system. We've brought the best minds across diagnostics, laboratories, telehealth, artificial intelligence, software, infection control, and sustainability to collaboratively effect solutions focused on where healthcare is heading as opposed to where we are today. The goal is to solve problems before they blow up.”

He adds, “By circumventing traditional channels and acting as an innovation integrator, we’re providing higher quality, more revenue, and new value for health systems and the communities they serve.” 

inHealth is not a typical healthcare  company, but then again, neither is Michuda. “People like to say they ‘think outside the box.’ For me, there is no box. That’s why I’m passionate about health care. Right now, one size fits none so the question is, ‘how can we make it better?’ Let’s set aside politics, call in the experts and start finding scalable solutions.”

Michuda’s advice for future entrepreneurs is this: Don’t focus on becoming the next blue chip stock. Find one fundamental problem and work incrementally until you have a solution you can execute and scale. The success will follow.

“Unless you can make a difference in someone’s life for the better, why do it?