Christine Heffernan

Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Healthcare, Parkland Health & Hospitals

Supernova Award Category: 

Data to Decisions

The Organization: 

Leveraging real-time situational awareness at the highest-volume emergency department in America. Caring for the most vulnerable residents in Dallas County, Texas since 1894, Parkland Health & Hospital System (Parkland) is a community safety net. The organization runs a modern acute care hospital, outpatient clinics located throughout the county, and educational and outreach programs, as well as a health plan. With layers of manual decision-making processes based on nightly reports with day-old data - the team at Parkland needed real-time critical insights. Committed to improving ER wait times, hospital throughput, and access to quality care for vulnerable populations, Parkland sought to help ER staff stay better informed and enable timely and efficient decisions.

The Problem: 

Parkland and has one of the busiest Emergency Rooms (ER) in the US, with over 240,000 visits in 2019. We were determined to maintain top standards and fulfill our mission, “Dedicated to the health and well-being of individuals and communities entrusted to our care,” even as the arrival of COVID-19 threw us into crisis mode. COVID-19 not only strained our resources but changed the data and insights required to efficiently operate the hospital. Now we need real-time insight into new KPIs, like: number of COVID ICU beds and ventilators available, COVID patients, and many other constantly changing variables. The pandemic accelerated Parkland’s need for healthcare transformation.

The Solution: 

In a span of 4 weeks, 3 crucial COVID co-innovations were delivered: 1. COVID-19 Command Center (SAC, Digital Board Room and SAP HANA); 2. Critical Inventory Tracker, tracking 30 critical care inventory items (Qualtrics Customer XM); and 3. COVID-19 Symptom Checker (SAP Conversational AI). This project was about saving lives during a pandemic. The COVID-19 co-innovations propelled Parkland forward 3-4 years in their digital transformation moving the hospital from reactive to proactive as a result of leveraging real-time data to plan and manage patient care and hospital operations.

The Results: 

Within 4 days, our analytics team responded by creating an actionable COVID dashboard built with HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud. We changed how we provide care by mapping where COVID-19 positive patients live to identify COVID community hotspots. The mobile testing unit and education teams are sent to these neighborhoods resulting in early COVID identification and reduced spreading. We also built our own surge prediction model that proved to be more accurate compared to the Penn Medicine model. The dashboard has been accessed thousands of times by hundreds of users and is a focal point for daily meetings with our Exec Team and source of truth for county, state, and federal reporting. The COVID Call Center was quickly overwhelmed with inquiries leading to long wait times. We leveraged SAP Conversational AI to build a COVID Symptom checker chatbot, in English and Spanish, that patients access on our hospital website. The chatbot ensured patients with COVID symptoms had swift access to healthcare practitioners.


1. 5-10X Utilization increase in usage of Command Center dashboard due to COVID Command Center. We shifted from using PowerPoint and Excel-based operating reports to using SAP Digital Boardroom as the hub. Insight delivery through the Command Center has become integral to daily user needs, it is now Tier 1 support application status. 3-4 year advancement of digital transformation journey

2. Leaders are now better able to make data-driven decisions about staffing needs across multiple service lines/departments. 50% increase in data requests from leaders and practitioners to make data-driven decisions. Patients are now able to access a chatbot to assess their symptoms, helping to guide them in seeking treatment options. 30 critical care inventory items tracked in real-time by staff for decision making that can directly save lives.

3. Leveraged HANA’s flexibility to create not only the dashboard but 20+ data models to be able to deliver the Commissioner’s report on vaccine inventory and administration to our community, regulatory reporting to state/federal gov and various other operational requirements. Working with community partners to share insights, guide best practices, and scale learnings in real-time as the pandemic impacted traditional models of supply and demand. Our COVID dashboard is accessed over 2,000x per month.

The Technology: 

SAP Conversational AI: A self-service chatbot screens patients for COVID symptoms redirecting patients not in need of urgent care so that patients needing immediate access could do so in a timely manner. 

SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP HANA: COVID-19 Command Center dashboard to make strategic decisions on operations. HANA provides a single source of truth for more than 200 different data sources.

SAP Conversational AI is integrated into SAP Integration Suite

Disruptive Factor: 

Parkland developed its ER Greaseboard dashboardusing the SAP®Analytics Cloud solution, which is powered by SAP HANA®and SAP Cloud Platform, to efficiently manage ER volumes to:•Gain complete visibility  of total patient volumes, bed utilization, and ER team assignments and workflows•Increase productivity in the ER department –optimizing ER volume management, workflow, and patient care using a powerful one-glance solution throughout the emergency department (ED)•Empower leaders and the ER team to make better decisions, leveraging SAP Digital Boardroom to drill  down on data with real-time contextual information and actionable insights•Improve clinical outcomes by more-efficiently managing ER volumes, serving more patients every day, and enhancing patient satisfaction with reduced wait times for admittance, care, and dischargeParkland’s ER Greaseboard 2.0 is in process, aiming to use the predictive analytics library in SAP HANA to:•Stratify and predict ED volumes by seasonal and community factors, weather, days of the week, and service type•Reduce “boarder” patients who meet the criteria for hospital admission but are waiting in ER for a hospital bed•Reduce workplace violence against ER staff by reducing high-volume, high-stress environments •Identify community-based initiatives for vulnerable populations (for example, opening more water stations in hot months)

Shining Moment: 

Parkland also won the 2020 SAP Innovation Award for its Healthcare Transformation in the Throes of a Pandemic.

The implementation was done within weeks for 120 users for COVID Command Center Dashboard (2,000+ views/month). Read more: 

About Parkland Health & Hospitals

As our community’s public health system, Parkland is the foundation for a healthy Dallas. As Parkland adds more services into the neighborhoods that need us most, we know that how we treat each and every patient affects the health and well-being of our entire community.Patient care is more than our job. It is our passion.