When you’re a medical doctor in small-town Iowa, it isn’t exactly a scene from Little House on the Prairie, but at times it can seem strikingly similar. At any and all hours of the day, there are babies to deliver and surgeries to perform, emergencies to tend and long, long hours to labor.
Jon Lensing (20MD) grew up in Pella, Iowa, where his father, Dale, worked as a doctor at Pella Regional Health Center. When he was young, Jon was disappointed that his father couldn’t attend many of his extracurricular events.
“He was always on call or there was an emergency he got called in for,” Jon said.
But as Jon and his siblings aged, so did their understanding of what was keeping doctor dad from being spectator dad.
“We would stop in the supermarket after church or after school and all these people would thank my father,” Jon said. “He knew everybody and he was very connected to everybody because of that. I started to realize the importance of somebody’s health over my baseball games.”
When Jon was accepted into medical school at the University of Iowa, he continued to see patients drive many hours one way to get the care they needed. That’s why Jon’s father was so busy, he reasoned, and it gave Jon the idea to start OpenLoop, a healthcare company that functions like a telehealth company.
“We are in business to empower other telehealth companies and we do that by providing a foundational infrastructure layer that encompasses all of clinical operations,” Lensing said. “Our clinicians utilize our technology to seek our clients for them.”
To date, OpenLoop (with its 115 employees) boasts 8,100 clinicians and 75 telehealth clients. It serves 42,000 zip codes.
“We have a massive shortage of healthcare providers across the country and we knew we weren’t going to meaningfully increase the size of that workforce,” Lensing said. “But we knew our colleagues had additional availability with their schedule, so how do you take this pre-existing pool of clinicians and make them more efficient with their daily schedules?”
Lensing attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry, biology, and Spanish. When he graduated from medical school at the University of Iowa, Lensing had no business background or business degree, so he leaned heavily on the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) for guidance.
Lensing said Iowa JPEC was instrumental in helping him gain the needed footing in the business world.
“(Iowa JPEC) gave me the learning tools necessary to build OpenLoop into what it is today,” Lensing said. “During those early stages, a lot of that revolved around financial support, capital for travel to business competitions, connections to people within our network, and figuring the business model we wanted to build. It is all of those things stacked on with the programmatic function JPEC also had: accelerator, [Startup Incubator], and pitch competitions that provided an early bearing for OpenLoop.”
OpenLoop wasn’t Lensing’s first entrepreneurial idea. He operated a lawn care company, and while studying in Michigan, came up with an idea for a drone surveillance company. But when the idea for OpenLoop surfaced, he dove in and starting raising capital to support it.
On Sept. 9, Lensing was recognized as Iowa JPEC’s 2022 Young Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors event in the Old Capitol Museum.
“It is validation for all the employees at OpenLoop,” Lensing said. “The award might be directed at me, but I can honestly say that is not me who does all the work. OpenLoop is important for patient lives and this is a rewarding and humbling career to be in. I have been humbled to work with the people I do on a daily basis.”
Lensing resides in Des Moines, Iowa.