Is there an aspect of your “usual” job—or any training or experience—that helped prepare you for this?
The central element of HCA Healthcare’s preparation was having trust in another [person] already in place. We have the great strength of many tenured people who have faced a lot together, so they can mobilize and execute rapidly because they know and trust another’s expertise. This was really on display throughout the organization during the response. We were not specifically prepared for COVID-19, but we are always ready for whatever comes at us. For data science, I’d say the team’s prior focus on building platforms put us in a good place when the pandemic hit. We spent two years building the platform [SPOT—Sepsis Prediction and Optimization of Therapy—into NATE] so when we needed new products every two weeks, we were able to deliver. That and the existing dedication and spirit of the team prepared us to go to war together against COVID-19.
The data portal sounds like a major development. Can you compare it to the impact that SPOT has hadon the clinical side?
The NRP was conceived in the early days of the pandemic, when we realized that we needed to be able to coordinate in a low-friction way with our sister healthcare facilities through a shared, open national data platform. We were preparing for scaled, high-stress coordination under surge conditions. Fortunately, the surge we feared was suppressed through really effective social distancing, so the initial need for the NRP has dissolved. However, the question now is about the national restart. I foresee the NRP serving as an impartial, data-based platform to manage the reopening and detect any resurgences early.
Is there a primary lesson learned from all of this?
It’s not a new lesson, but another example of HCA Healthcare living up to our mission. I’ve participated in normal and emergency operations several times now, and the organization always turns up the same way with vigor, resources and absolute dedication to patient care. Beyond that, we’ve now sustained operating with previously unthinkable speed and precision. That sets a new bar, and, as I said earlier, gives us the keys to post-COVID-19 success.
(Pictured at top of page: Daniel O’Neal, Systems engineer, Crossings Data Center, Antioch, Tenn.)