Paul Jensen of Novarad: “Life is all about expectations”

Leaders must focus on more than just growing market share or developing the next profitable innovation. They must look at how they can better help and serve the world in which they live by improving the healthcare experience for all people. People suffering with a health problem are vulnerable in one of the worst ways […]

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Leaders must focus on more than just growing market share or developing the next profitable innovation. They must look at how they can better help and serve the world in which they live by improving the healthcare experience for all people. People suffering with a health problem are vulnerable in one of the worst ways possible. While minimizing this vulnerability is a difficult challenge, it can and must be solved.

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 Paul Jensen.

As President of Novarad, Paul Jensen drives the overall strategy and execution at Novarad. He joined Novarad in early 2019 and brings over 25 years of experience in the global IT industry across finance, sales, marketing and business development.

Paul is passionate about technology as a positive force in the world — improving care and reducing patient vulnerability.

Paul loves to be active outdoors — running, biking, hiking, snowboarding and surfing. He’s also an avid photographer and music buff.

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?

Overall, I’m personally driven by a desire to make a meaningful difference in the world. I started my career analyzing financial processes and managing all customer and product data for Krusteaz — a medium-sized food manufacturer in Seattle. In that role, I taught myself SQL coding and Visual Basic, so we could automate several manual processes that were back then traditionally done using reams of green bar paper. This was a foundational experience and led to my joining Microsoft and learning from some of the greatest leaders in all of business for the 20 years I was there, in multiple capacities across Finance, Sales, Marketing, Business Development and Partner Channel Teams.

Fundamentally, I believe we all do our best work when we stretch ourselves and feel connected to a meaningful endeavor. That’s why I have spent the last two years bringing to life some of the great opportunities here at Novarad. I believe we can bring an unparalleled level of innovation and technology to the market to help radiologists and care providers serve patients in some of their most vulnerable moments.

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

I’m a firm believer that persevering through challenges is where we learn the most about ourselves and who we truly are. As it so happens, I began working at Novarad just one year before COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., presenting one of the greatest global challenges of our time. And I’ve been blown away by our ability to adapt as a company.

It’s been a very different year, but the pandemic didn’t stop us from being productive. We stepped back and honed our DNA — who we are at our core — and executed even more soundly. Embracing a work-from-anywhere policy was a big change for us, but every team across our organization found ways to become even more effective in light of this focused adaptation.

I think we’re a lot like some of the families you hear about on TV or social media who’ve become closer during the pandemic because they’ve become intentional about keeping in touch. As a company, we’ve also become more sure-footed and intentional about what we want to do and how we want to do it. I never would have thought that a challenge like COVID-19 could help companies find another gear, but we’ve reconfirmed who we want to be and have adapted in incredible ways.

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

Looking back now, a mistaken assumption I had about how long it takes to get regulatory approvals within healthcare seems amusing. I quickly learned how differently speed-to-market is measured in healthcare than in other verticals in business.

My experiences with Microsoft and other businesses taught me that when you have an incredible product with huge potential to improve people’s lives, everyone gets behind it. Innovative tech devices can get approved in a matter of months, but healthcare’s traditional processes approval mechanisms take longer. A typical healthcare device can take two years or longer to get regulatory approval — although it will be interesting to see if that timeframe starts to shrink in the wake of COVID-19 as new vaccines have come forward.

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

Novarad stands out because of the altruism we weave into every innovation. If a piece of technology isn’t going to improve lives or outcomes for patients, it competes in terms of focus and resources with more focused solutions. We are deeply committed to making a difference in healthcare — for providers and patients. It’s fundamental to our DNA and mission, and we bring that to life in our transformative technology. For example, we’re constantly advancing our core products to empower radiologists to reduce patient vulnerability or the moments surrounding healthcare encounters that make a patient feel anxious, helpless or exposed. Plus, we’re creating new ways to bring imaging visibility directly to patients. Our CryptoChart™ product, for example, modernizes the way medical images like MRI, X-ray and CT scans are shared by using simple, secure QR codes instead of outdated CDs. Providing patients with their data in a safe, secure way enables them to access their images and patient health information (PHI) anytime, anywhere, lessening the stressors and anxiety they may feel about their data or PHI being shared or mismanaged without their permission. Throughout Novarad, you can find example after example of innovation designed to make the patient experience better by reducing their sense of vulnerability throughout their healthcare journeys.

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

In a phrase: remember to define a focused sense of purpose. I’ve found if talented and capable team members feel a connection to the work they’re doing — if they feel they’re making a real difference in this space — then they do amazing work and bring their best selves to everything they touch. When healthcare leaders empower people in this way and remove all possible roadblocks, in my opinion, that’s the key to a successful and thriving team.

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?

My global perspective on this question is shaped partly by an amazing opportunity I had to live and work in Singapore for four years — including a firsthand experience with the healthcare system after a bicycle accident. My patient experience involved an ambulance ride, X-rays and stitches at a local hospital. I received excellent care and was treated respectfully from start to finish — and my total bill for the care I received was less than $100 (US). There are a lot of complex factors involved in healthcare, of course, but here are three things I see contributing to US healthcare challenges:

Cultural emphasis on the individual vs. society. This isn’t a commentary on whether one mindset is better than the other. It’s just that the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how each mindset has the potential to impact healthcare. As a prime example, many people in the US feel that any infringement on individual freedoms is a “slippery slope,” which has factored into the lack of nationwide consensus about face covering mandates. In Asia, though, I met people who felt their responsibility to society took precedence over personal freedoms. That’s why it’s long been customary to wear facemasks to prevent the spread of illness in Japan, China and other countries. People there tend to view it as a way to show respect for their communities and fellow citizens — even before the pandemic.

Provider-oriented care processes. So many of our current healthcare processes were created to accommodate healthcare providers instead of patients. But I’m encouraged by the growing recognition that the best way to improve health outcomes is to make care patient-centric. I’m even more encouraged that technology today gives us the ability to accommodate both providers and patients together. It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” proposition. I see the further potential of technology to simultaneously ease provider workflows and enhance the patient experience.

Lack of care access. While this is a bold statement, I do feel it’s unacceptable that we haven’t solved this basic need for every person in the country, given the level of technology and wealth we have in the US. It goes without saying, but we’ll never be able to improve health outcomes for individuals in every segment or population if people don’t have access to the care they need. We must solve the access challenge.

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? Please share a story or example for each.

Improving the American healthcare system is exactly the kind of tough, meaningful and impactful challenge I feel we at Novarad are striving to influence. In reality, it will take a lot of combined effort to achieve lasting transformation, but I think these five changes could take us a long way:

Streamline healthcare processes. Most people agree that we can vastly improve healthcare simply by reducing redundancies and streamlining workflows. We must start to challenge complacency and question why we do things the way we do them. Why should patients have to undergo the same imaging procedure twice just because their providers’ imaging systems don’t “talk” to one another? Why can’t patients get their images through a QR code on their phones that they can then share with their care team wherever they seek treatment? By looking at processes through a human-centered/patient-centered lens, I’m convinced we can expand providers’ ability to land amazing patient experiences more efficiently and regularly.

Embrace technology as a provider ally. The pandemic has placed even greater pressure on doctors, nurses and other providers, and burnout has become a very real problem. Physicians and nurses are leaving the field. If we use technology as it should be used, it can help reduce many provider burdens. But we have to overcome a couple of hurdles. First, providers must embrace the positive aspects of technology and set aside any negative history with electronic health records (EHRs) and other implementations. Second, we must transform our view of technology itself. Where possible, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies should be used to help make providers more effective and efficient within the context of human-to-human patient care. Providers must banish any fears of being “replaced” by understanding that no technology will ever replace the human touch inside the patient experience. Humanity and compassion will always be integral to healthcare.

Reduce patient vulnerability. Imagine for a moment that you’re a 14-year-old boy who will soon have surgery for a congenital heart condition. How would you feel? Very likely, you’d feel anxious, uncertain and scared — in other words, vulnerable. But what if your pediatric cardiology team used an augmented reality (AR) technology to show you exactly how they planned to fix your heart? That knowledge could turn all the anxiety and confusion into excitement and anticipation for the outcome instead. We must always remember that people who are sick, hurting, or waiting on a diagnosis or treatment are inherently vulnerable. But by increasing patients’ knowledge, as well as their sense of partnership and collaboration with their providers, we can start to minimize patients’ medical vulnerability. The example I shared here is exactly what one of our new technologies (OpenSight) enabled a few months ago — brought to life by an amazing physician and their team.

Ensure access to quality care. The goal of reducing patient vulnerability assumes that patients have the appropriate coverage for their healthcare needs and that their vulnerability revolves around unknowns connected to their illness, prognosis or treatment. To not have insurance or to be unsure about whether your healthcare needs are covered — this is the ultimate vulnerability. We must ensure every person — regardless of their background, religion, race, economic status, geographic location or any other factor — has access to effective, affordable and reliable healthcare.

Prioritize the patient experience. The business realities faced by healthcare providers sometimes overshadow the necessary focus on the priority of the patient experience. Yet, the only reason healthcare exists is to meet the needs of patients. We have to opportunity to raise the patient experience bar by taking a “day in the life” view of both patients and providers. Why, for example, should a patient have to wait in the doctor’s office lobby for extended periods of time before a scheduled appointment? Prioritizing the patient experience — thinking through the patient and provider experiences end-to-end, and then streamlining them will go a long way in improving US healthcare.

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?

First, I think it’s important for all individuals, as patients, to set and keep a high standard when it comes to their expectations of healthcare providers. All too often it takes weeks to see providers and resolve nagging unknowns. This creates unnecessary patient vulnerability. But technology and innovation have so much to offer that patients should expect a transformative experience. Why shouldn’t patients be able to walk into a healthcare organization, check in automatically through an app on their phone, assume their personal health app data is integrated with the provider’s systems and enjoy a white-glove experience throughout the process? Appointments, payments, follow-up — it should all feel seamless for patients.

Corporations must continue (or start) to consider how their technologies or solutions can reduce patient vulnerability. From solution integrators to providers themselves, healthcare corporations need to keep more than patient outcomes central to their purpose. They must rise to another level of excellence to alleviate vulnerability — as must communities. It’s up to communities to eradicate the ultimate patient vulnerability by ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare.

Finally, leaders must focus on more than just growing market share or developing the next profitable innovation. They must look at how they can better help and serve the world in which they live by improving the healthcare experience for all people. People suffering with a health problem are vulnerable in one of the worst ways possible. While minimizing this vulnerability is a difficult challenge, it can and must be solved.

I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?

It’s likely an obvious observation, but the stigma associated with seeking help for mental/behavioral health issues is unfortunate. We have made progress compared to decades ago but further change of the mindset is required across our society and in the workplace regarding the need and the benefits of an individual’s mental healthcare. I believe the unique struggles of the average worker during the pandemic has brought a new light to these issues and has likely been improving this mindset. I would encourage leaders at all levels to be bold in their encouraging their teams to proactively look after their mental health, either through wellness efforts or through the assistance of a healthcare provider. This is more imperative now than it was pre-pandemic.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

As I see it, an excellent healthcare provider — or an excellent healthcare experience, for that matter — is one that never loses sight of the patient. It’s a provider or experience that engages the patient, reduces their vulnerability and as a result creates a positive impact on their life.

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

There are actually many quotes that I love. Most of them center around wanting the right things and building up others around you. For example, when I was in high school, I attended an extended youth activity, and the theme was “You Acquire what You Desire”. That quote has never left me.

I’m also reminded of the power of belief and importance of confidence by the quote, “Whether you believe you can or you cannot, you are right”.

There are also a few adages that shape most of what I know. They include:

Any problem between two people (or organizations) is at least in part, due to a breakdown in communication.

Life is all about expectations — happiness in the journey is due to a feeling that expectations have been surpassed. On the other hand, pain or frustration can often be tied to unrealistic, or improperly set expectations.

In the end, we have to be responsible for understanding and setting what we want most in life. Then, we must leverage our personal passion and work relentlessly within our internal commitment to the outcomes we’re seeking. This approach has made all the difference in my life.

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

Yes! We have continued to make breakthroughs in our Augmented/Mixed Reality solution (Figure 1), which overlays imaging on a patient in preparation for various medical procedures. Technologies like these allow surgeons to determine exactly where to make an incision or how to place a needle, even in complex cases, supporting minimally invasive procedures that tend to result in less pain and recovery time for the patient. The usage scenarios are super exciting and will lead to real breakthroughs in operating procedure outcomes.

Figure 1 shows a previously scanned image overlaid onto a patient showing the surgeon exactly where the incision is to be made, prior to surgery.

In addition, last summer we launched a new suite of AI-based tools that open new ground for care providers. Our new COVID-19 AI Diagnostic Assistant tool, for instance, is a free resource that helps detect COVID-19 via CT scans. A nasal swab or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test may miss up to 40% of COVID-19 positive patients. However, when COVID is present in a patient with pulmonary symptoms, our algorithm has a <1% false negative detection rate.

The goal of these solutions and our suite of transformative technology is to help healthcare organizations deliver clinical, operational and financial excellence while providing patient-centric care. Offering physicians fast and easy access to radiology records, whether through a storyboard that represents a patient’s history or QR code that holds their latest scans, helps to provide a more complete patient view and enables better care.

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

From my perspective as a business leader, I’ve truly found anything by Malcom Gladwell extremely useful, valuable and beneficial. I also love Stephen M.R. Covey’s Speed of Trust.

Brene Brown also has an amazing perspective. I’ve recently been immersing myself in her latest podcast. I especially enjoyed her recent discussion with Melinda Gates regarding the importance of the role of women and their empowerment. Based on some key things they discussed, I plan to implement some ideas at Novarad to further support and energize our organization.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I feel that every person on the planet should have access to excellent healthcare. After that, the next priority is to make the healthcare experience one with as little patient vulnerability as possible.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow my LinkedIn profile,

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