Charlie Lougheed On 5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System

An Interview With Jake Frankel
Authority Magazine Editorial Staff

Better Implementation of Artificial Intelligence to Address Large-Scale Issues: AI in healthcare doesn’t have to be confined to treatment. With all the data within healthcare, it can assist with wide-ranging areas, including workforce planning, recruiting, onboarding, and retention. Optimizing the healthcare supply chain has the potential to cut costs and enhance care.

As a part of our interview series called “5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System”, I had the pleasure to interview Charlie Lougheed.

Charlie Lougheed is the CEO and co-founder of Axuall, a workforce intelligence company built on a national real-time Clinician Data Network that enables healthcare organizations to create more efficient care networks while reducing onboarding time by over 70 percent.

Charlie co-founded and co-funded Explorys, now IBM Watson Health, in 2009 as a spin-off from Cleveland Clinic. Explorys became the leader in healthcare big data and value-based-care analytics, spanning hundreds of thousands of healthcare providers and over 60 million patients across the United States. Having amassed the World’s largest clinical data set, Explorys went on to serve the payer, life sciences, and pharmaceutical sectors by providing real-world evidence and insight for product planning, research, health economic outcomes research, and safety.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was this quirky, entrepreneurial teenager from the start. I realized early on that traditional employment paths were not for me, so I established my own companies. Every company I have created has centered around “big data,” even before the term became mainstream.

For every company I co-founded, Everstream, Explorys, or Axuall, the focus was on innovative solutions and maximizing the use of data. I was lucky enough that a skilled team came with each of these companies. We recognized the power of data to disrupt and bring clarity to dynamic environments like healthcare.

The genesis of our current company, Axuall, stemmed from sharing my gratitude to the healthcare executives who supported my previous ventures. While expressing my thanks, conversations naturally focused on the challenges of keeping those executives awake at night. Most focused on the workforce: shortages, high turnover, elevated costs, and burnout. Recognizing the workforce as the most crucial supply chain in healthcare, we realized the immense opportunity to leverage big data to create meaningful impact. The goal became clear: make a difference by helping healthcare systems effectively manage and understand their workforce.

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

Starting a company begins with the audacious goal of positively impacting the world. Initially, it can seem somewhat unrealistic, but deep down, you believe in the significance of your actions. Challenges arise as every startup journey unfolds, such as tight finances, creative problem-solving, and growing competition. The initial grand vision is momentarily overshadowed by the day-to-day struggle to keep the business afloat.

Amid these trials, surrounding yourself with a supportive team becomes crucial. People who constantly remind you of the initial vision to help overcome the hurdles.

One of my most thrilling moments was in my previous company, Explorys. Major players in the tech and health industries started recognizing our efforts. So much so that IBM acquired the company in 2015; it wasn’t just a morale boost but a realization that every small step, stumble, and achievement was worth it. The experience underscored the importance of staying true to the vision, navigating through the day-to-day challenges, and trusting that the sum of all our efforts will eventually become fruitful.

Can you share a story about your funniest mistake when first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but some people get a kick out of Axuall’s original location. It wasn’t out of a garage or a fancy corporate office but an old converted barge creating a floating office space on Lake Erie. We weren’t braving the high seas, but it was a fun start for Axuall. There is a lesson from everything. It may not have been a traditional office, but it was filled with love, and every time we boarded it, we were reminded how special it was to start this way. Today, we’re in a much larger office across the street from Cleveland’s sporting venues, trading the sounds of seagulls for the cheers of sports fans. Go, Guardians!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t get caught up in the thick of thin things. Just take care of your customers.”

That’s what my father, Chuck Lougheed, would tell me. While innovation often thrives on paying attention to the nuances, it’s equally crucial to remind ourselves of the bigger picture. This lesson has been relevant in my life as a constant reminder to check myself, maintain perspective, and align my efforts with the broader goals that matter to the people we love and serve.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

An excellent healthcare provider organization effectively delivers both quality and cost-effective healthcare. Both aspects are imperative, not only for the patients but also for the individual clinicians themselves. These organizations provide the same emphasis and care toward their physicians as their patients. And clinicians that are taken care of do well by their patients.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

Given my dyslexia, reading books can be a challenge. I listen to more books than I read. One I keep coming back to is “Emotional Intelligence.”

When I reflect on whether I am leading with intelligence, I’m reminded that people can forgive you when you make a mistake if you display a certain level of emotional intelligence. That forgiveness becomes much more difficult when you are not emotionally connected with your team.

Emotional intelligence goes beyond being perpetually composed. It means acknowledging and expressing your emotions appropriately and knowing how others receive them. Whether it’s excitement, frustration, or any other emotion, it’s about understanding how these emotions impact others and moderating them accordingly.

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

It’s a constant project for us at Axuall. We’re working to revolutionize clinical workforce intelligence. It leverages verified, real-time clinician data for planning, recruiting, onboarding, and optimization. It has the power to help address so many of our health system’s most significant problems, like workforce shortages and clinician burnout.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now 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?

If the US had a perfect health system, Axuall wouldn’t be needed. But we don’t, so we do exist. And while there are faults in the health system, there is greatness, too, and plenty of greatness has yet to be tapped into. Here are what I believe are the three most pressing issues in healthcare:

  • Workforce Challenges: Over the past decade, burnout among clinicians has been on the rise. Workplace safety, career satisfaction, and decisions about career paths have become more challenging for clinicians. The sacrifices demanded and the stress healthcare workers experience make it essential to address these challenges.
  • Costs: The exorbitant expenses associated with healthcare in the U.S. are problematic, especially when accessing care. Healthcare costs are a leading cause of bankruptcy for people in this country. Administrative support, waste, abuse, and fraud contribute to a considerable portion of every healthcare dollar spent, making it an area where improvements are crucial. Let’s put the dollars where they count.
  • Food: People need help with access to affordable, healthy food. Diabetic rates, obesity, and cancer rates are on the rise, reflecting the impact of dietary habits. The interplay between the healthcare system and the challenges the food system poses is complex. This aspect, often overlooked, requires attention and solutions to create a healthier population that will lead to an improved health system.

As a “healthcare insider”, if you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system?

  • Utilizing Big Data for Workforce Optimization: The vast amount of data available in healthcare can be leveraged to understand and optimize the healthcare workforce. By analyzing this data at a large-scale level, health systems can identify patterns, trends, and areas for improvement in workforce allocation and care delivery. For example, big data and predictive models can reveal that certain regions have a shortage of primary care physicians while others have an excess. This information can guide targeted recruitment and digital health initiatives, thus improving access to care.
  • Better Implementation of Artificial Intelligence to Address Large-Scale Issues: AI in healthcare doesn’t have to be confined to treatment. With all the data within healthcare, it can assist with wide-ranging areas, including workforce planning, recruiting, onboarding, and retention. Optimizing the healthcare supply chain has the potential to cut costs and enhance care.
  • Empowering Clinicians with Data: It’s essential to collect and analyze healthcare data and ensure clinicians can access this information. After all, it’s their data, and they can provide valuable insights and feedback based on their experiences. A system where clinicians have real-time access to patient outcomes data, enabling them to tailor treatments and interventions based on the latest evidence and best practices. This empowerment fosters a culture of continuous improvement and patient-centered care.
  • Improving the Clinician Experience: Healthcare is a people business. And we need to take care of the people who care for patients. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2034, a physician shortage of 124,000 is expected. Health systems must find ways to alleviate burnout from their clinicians. Making healthcare a fulfilling and rewarding career is crucial for the well-being of healthcare professionals and the overall quality of care.
  • Right-sizing Healthcare Delivery: The delivery of healthcare services should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of patients, taking into account factors such as location, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. This involves reevaluating traditional care delivery models and embracing innovative approaches prioritizing accessibility and efficiency. For example, consider the recent shift towards ambulatory and retail healthcare settings. By decentralizing care and bringing services closer to patients’ communities, we can reduce barriers to access and improve overall health outcomes.

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?

The implementation of clinician data. I believe it’s truly vital to make significant changes across all aspects of healthcare. In the 2010s, we experienced a breakthrough in patient data. In the 2020s, we need to see that same breakthrough for clinician data. It will and is already improving the lives of clinicians, health systems, and the patients for whom they provide care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system, leaving some hospital systems at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with us examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these issues moving forward?

COVID-19 was an eye-opening experience for the US healthcare system. We saw the immense strain the healthcare workforce was under during the pandemic. We see the remnants of that strain today with workforce shortages and burnout, not to mention changing attitudes and engagement profiles among the workforce. There is no light switch that a health executive can flip to eliminate these issues. It will require access to various data sets and take time, creativity, and hard work from people across the healthcare industry to address these issues.

How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

More healthcare decision-makers must find ways to harness the data around them. Recruitment alone can’t alleviate the workforce shortages plaguing the healthcare system. While it is undoubtedly a piece of the long-term solution, health systems need help now.

In the immediate, optimizing processes such as onboarding, credentialing, and enrollment ensures more clinicians are working and treating patients instead of waiting for an email to verify information that’s already been confirmed half a dozen times before. Looking into the future, the potential uses for clinician data are endless. It provides insights for network planning, analytics, and reporting, dramatically reducing the time to activate healthcare workers while providing the tools to anticipate industry trends and fill clinician gaps before the next pandemic.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?

Big Data can play a pivotal role in how healthcare organizations understand a more complete picture of their workforce. Leaders must understand the practice phenotype of their clinicians as well as the medical phenotypes of their patients. Both must go beyond the basics of demographics, specialty, and license, where care matches can also be made based on procedural and experiential factors.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician and nurse burnout?

Health systems must use all the information that they already possess as a tool to help address burnout. Several factors contributing to clinician burnout stem from workforce shortages, workplace safety, and scheduling. Streamlining onboarding processes can expedite the deployment of additional clinician resources, while optimized staffing can address workload and workflow issues contributing to overwhelming schedules and workplace safety. To truly tackle the multifaceted challenge that is burnout, health system leaders must pair innovative technology and available data with a supportive work environment that prioritizes the well-being of their clinical staff.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

We need to be better at having a civil dialogue with one another. We’ve become a polarized society, even beyond politics. And frankly, collectively, we’ve become unhappier because of it — with shouting overshadowing listening. Growing up in an immigrant household, I was encouraged to embrace the melting pot of different nationalities and ideas. A healthy amount of openness, respect for others, care, understanding, empathy, and compromise could return us to a more civil discourse and a happier future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place to see our latest updates is by checking out Axuall’s website and our Linkedin page.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

Axuall Secures $20M Series B Capital Raise after Accelerated Market Growth & Enterprise Adoption

Noro-Moseley Partners, along with a syndicate of leading healthcare organizations, invest in optimizing the clinician workforce via Axuall’s Data Network

CLEVELAND, May 31, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Axuall, the industry leader in clinical workforce intelligence, proudly announced today the investment of $20 million in Series B funding led by Noro-Moseley Partners, with additional investors Flare Capital Partners, Intermountain Ventures, University Hospitals Ventures, Hartford HealthCare, (part of the Jackson Healthcare family of companies), Epsilon Health Investors, InHealth Ventures, AV8 Ventures, JumpStart Ventures, and M25 Ventures. Axuall’s investors and the organizations they represent comprise over two dozen of the nation’s leading healthcare organizations that recognize the imperative to improve clinical workforce efficiency amidst significant economic and staffing challenges.

Established and developed with leading healthcare systems since 2019, Axuall is a workforce intelligence company built on a national real-time practitioner data network that connects healthcare organizations to a vast array of data, providing insights for network planning, analytics, and reporting, while dramatically reducing onboarding and enrollment time via provider-enabled digital credentials.

“Timely clinician population data is key to optimizing a healthcare workforce, a factor that ranks among the most critical priorities for healthcare leaders,” stated Ajay Kumar, M.D., EVP & Chief Clinical Officer, Hartford HealthCare. “An optimized workforce enables organizations to meet demand, improving patient outcomes and healthcare systems’ economics.”

Meanwhile, reducing friction within the people side of the supply chain is critical to addressing staffing shortages in the United States. Planning, recruiting, and placement have long been inefficient, time-consuming, and painful for clinicians and healthcare organizations. However, organizations that leverage data networks to streamline the process will be the choice of healthcare systems and clinicians in the coming years.

“With Axuall’s network, we are transforming the way we collect and validate credentials, allowing qualified clinicians to onboard at facilities swiftly and efficiently,” said Chris Franklin, President of “Our commitment to providing access to quality patient care is at the core of our mission, and this investment represents a significant step forward in achieving that goal.”

Ryan Collins, Principal at Noro-Moseley Partners, will join Axuall’s board of directors and stated, “Axuall’s workforce optimization solutions address a top pain point for its customers, offers a sizable and demonstrable ROI, and is a testament to the team’s deep domain expertise with provider-facing technology solutions. Noro-Moseley is excited to invest in and be a part of Axuall’s rapid growth.”

In addition to growing its product, sales, and marketing teams, Axuall will use the capital raised to continue to develop its data partnerships across its network, which today consists of over 6,800 primary data sources. Funding will also be used to accelerate its API integration into the planning, recruiting, credentialing, enrollment, CRM, and electronic medical record systems that healthcare organizations use today.

“The growth we experienced since our inception tells us that being the connector to clinicians and their data is important to the ecosystem of our customers, vendors, and data partners,” stated Charlie Lougheed, Co-founder and CEO of Axuall. “We are humbled and honored by the support from the healthcare community and forward-looking investors as we address this opportunity to improve access to quality care.”

About Axuall

Built with leading healthcare systems, Axuall is a workforce intelligence company powered by a national real-time practitioner data network. The technology enables healthcare systems, staffing firms, telehealth, and health plans to dramatically reduce onboarding and enrollment time while providing robust data insights for network planning, analytics, and reporting. To learn more, visit or follow Axuall on LinkedIn.

About Noro-Moseley Partners

Noro-Moseley Partners is a growth equity firm backing leading entrepreneurs across the healthcare IT, healthcare services, and B2B software sectors. Since 1983, NMP has invested nearly $1 billion across more than 200 companies, and the managers of NMP’s current fund, Noro-Moseley Partners IX, have more than 60 years collectively of direct growth equity investing experience. Through NMP’s domain expertise, active board participation, and network that includes strategic health plan and hospital system limited partners, the firm aims to support management teams through key inflection points on their company’s growth trajectory.

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