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Hsing Min Sha
Hsing Min Sha

“When COVID arrived, the change in our work was like changing from tending a garden to herding stampeding buffalo,” says Hsing Min Sha, Data, Analytics and Infrastructure program manager, MGH/MGPO Ambulatory Management.

“The year started with many projects keeping us busy, but the Mass General garden was a stable plot of ground where we deployed new cultivation techniques, planted new varieties of seeds and tended to the crops that were already there,” says Sha. “But a few weeks into January, we heard the rumblings of coronavirus and knew we had to prepare right away. We began working to launch a comprehensive real-time operational intelligence platform to track the virus.”

Within a week, the team had the tracking program up and running.

Once Mass General had the tools to track and measure, the team began planning for, launching and managing the respiratory clinics. “That was the stampeding buffalo period—running as fast as we could while staying safe and working together effectively to move in a good direction,” says Sha. “That was also the period where I felt most proud of Mass General.” 

Sha says the response allowed his team to discover new talents and work with new groups, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the hospital. Real-time data began flowing in that combined operational and clinical metrics from across departments. “People came together with less technology and tighter resources to achieve reporting and analytic solutions that a month earlier seemed impossible,” says Sha. “The direct connection between clinicians and analysts sparked rapid, insightful innovation.”

The peak was the most physically demanding time for Sha and his team, but he explains that the recovery modeling and targeting was the most challenging aspect of the response. “These models depended on such uncertain information and diverse interests and viewpoints.”

“Looking back at the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) period, now, what sticks with me most is how little sticks with me. The buffalo stampede has passed. The grass is swaying in the field, and there are a few cows standing around, but the HICS period seems like a different lifetime. But we still hear echoes of the rumbling herd and wonder if and when the stampede will return.”

If or when the stampede does return, Sha and his team will be ready to keep information and data flowing throughout the institution to better serve the hospital’s patients.