Q: Can you tell us briefly about your previous jobs and how they prepared you to lead AAMI?
Jensen: While I’ve worked primarily for three different organizations – MITRE, Noblis, and the U.S. Marines – I’ve been fortunate to have learned in a number of different positions within each of them. Beginning with my military service, the Marines have an extraordinary formal leadership program for their officer corps that has been extremely valuable in all phases of my career and life. For example, I apply some of the tenets I learned in my job today when I emphasize the three traits of character, competence, and courage within my team. Organizations with employees who have strong marks in each of these traits and a shared vision are synergistically capable of achieving more than the simple sum of the individuals.
In my early civilian career at MITRE and then at Noblis (a nonprofit research corporation), I learned about networked organizations and how to function effectively within them. The military is necessarily hierarchical, and directive orders save lives when time is of the essence. On the other hand, organizations such as Noblis and MITRE have an administrative hierarchy, but they function like a network that requires more interactions, many of them subtle, across the spectrum of internal colleagues and external stakeholders.
Finally, at MITRE I had a great opportunity to build the organization’s healthcare vertical pretty much from the ground up. I learned multiple skills in the positions I held there, including visioning, strategic planning, business case creation and execution, and building high-performing teams in a non-military environment. I think each of these stages in my career has influenced who I am and prepared me to come to AAMI.
Q: You served in the U.S. Armed Forces as a Marine. What was the biggest lesson you learned during your military service?
Jensen: Tracers work both ways. Just kidding! The biggest lesson was to put those working for you before yourself. If we have an AAMI buffet luncheon, I eat last. If there aren’t enough chairs, then I stand and my colleagues sit. These seem like little things in the grand scheme, but putting other people first makes a positive difference in their lives that translates to making a positive impact on the organization and a positive change in the world. What could be better than that?
Q: What is the most exciting aspect of your job as AAMI president?
Jensen: There are two things I find very exciting as AAMI’s president and CEO. First is the opportunity to learn and grow. I had broad experience, education, and other lessons from my background to bring to the position, but there are different challenges here that are fulfilling me in new ways. Standing still is simply not an option for me because it narrows the future instead of expanding it.
The second truly exciting thing about AAMI is the dedication to the mission. The employees, along with the extended family of volunteers, members, and stakeholders, care very deeply about the safe use of technology in health care because they know the difference it can make. I never imagined I would see other organizations with the passionate dedication to the mission that I experienced in the Marines, but I see it here at AAMI.
Q: What are your goals as the leader of AAMI?
Jensen: There are three items I consider to be my top-level goals. The first is to do no harm. AAMI reached its 50th anniversary this year because it does some things exceptionally well for the stakeholders in healthcare technology. Maintaining the fundamentals that have made AAMI successful is one key to continuing to be successful in the future.
Next is to look over the horizon at the changing landscape in health care and work hard to discover what products and services our members will need in the future. Capabilities and capacities take time to build, and most of our members are too busy to think deeply about and scan the environment for “what’s next.” We need to serve them by getting ahead of the rapid changes in healthcare technology and patient safety, showing them which ones could impact their jobs and futures.
Finally, I need to work with the staff and the Board of Directors to incorporate the products and services our members might need into our strategy. We have to position AAMI not just for today but also for tomorrow. There are a couple of old but true clichés that apply here: (1) What got you here won’t get you to the next level, and (2) If you want to score goals, skate not to where the puck is but to where the puck will be. AAMI is skating toward the future.
Q: What is AAMI’s most important role when it comes to serving the HTM community?
Jensen: Great question. Since I’ve joined AAMI, I’ve learned about a number of different projects and programs that AAMI offers to support and advance the HTM community. For example, there’s a lot of interest in regulatory news from CMS and The Joint Commission. At AAMI, we stay on top of that news, share it with the HTM community through multiple channels, and look for ways to help the community address concerns about proposed regulatory changes. Our online forums allow members to post questions, exchange information, and share their thoughts with one another.
In addition, AAMI has a rich history of providing top quality training and resources in healthcare technology through webinars, our Annual Conference, and other training programs. We’ll continue to build on that success and make sure that we’re always addressing the issues facing HTM.
It’s also worth noting that AAMI has a detailed HTM business plan that serves as the bible for our HTM activities. The plan calls on AAMI staff and volunteers to help advance the field through training and education; standardize the field by developing new HTM-oriented standards, which we believe is a better alternative to regulation; and promote the value of the HTM profession to the C-suite, students, and others. It takes all of us to get these things done, but AAMI is committed to leading in these areas.
Q: What is the one project or area of HTM that you feel strongly about?
Jensen: For me, it is having AAMI continue to raise the bar for the profession as a whole. This might include developing an AAMI fellowship program to recognize leaders in the field and provide strong role models that others can aspire to emulate, or helping academic institutions understand the competencies necessary to be successful in the field, and perhaps certifying qualified graduates of some institutions. Just as some of the health information technology credentials were in very nascent stages as little as 10 years ago, so too are some of the HTM credentials now. But the future in this space is very bright.
Q: What are some of the challenges HTM professionals are facing now? How can they navigate these obstacles?
Jensen: I think one challenge is official advocacy in Washington, D.C. One way AAMI maintains its objectivity in the health sector―and its ability to independently convene parties with differing opinions―is that we don’t do any advocacy work. That being said, any large group that is not represented on Capitol Hill when concerns arise in their professional space has no voice in the solution. I hope, with the help of HTM professionals and consultants who have been working in this space, to create a way they can get that support.
Q: What advice would you offer an individual who is just starting an HTM career?
Jensen: I would give the same advice that I would give to anyone who is just starting out in any career. First, get all the education you can afford from the most highly rated place you can get it. This doesn’t mean the most expensive; it means the best education. Second, get one or more mentors who you respect and admire to ask you the career questions you might not be thinking about. Most mid- to late-career individuals love to pass along their knowledge and expertise. Third, get and stay current in your field. Attend seminars and conferences, and keep reading relevant professional materials. If you don’t manage your career, someone else will, and it probably won’t be as fulfilling as it could be. Finally, create a life–work balance. None of us can work all the time, nor can we be successful in an environment where we’re not comfortable. Find balance to be at your very best.
Q: Thank you for your time today. Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of TechNation?
Jensen: Many of the people who work in technology and safety in health care are unsung heroes every day. If you drive home and don’t see a fire, you probably don’t think about being thankful for the local fire department and its fire prevention and safety efforts. And if your neighborhood is quiet and safe at night, you probably enjoy it but don’t think too often about the local police officers and what they do to keep it that way. In the same vein, when we go to our physicians or hospitals, we interact with medical devices that are manufactured and maintained with an extraordinary commitment to safety. Yet, we probably don’t think about the infection we didn’t get because the sterilization was done properly or the injury we didn’t sustain because the device was serviced expertly and on time. Everyone who works with healthcare technology truly makes a difference, and it’s worth saying “thank you” every now and then for that. Thank you for the conversation today, I enjoyed it.
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