Home CIO Perspectives Sentara Healthcare Uses Interconnectivity to Keep Patient Empowerment a Priority and Deploy a Remote Workforce
Sentara Healthcare

Sentara Healthcare Uses Interconnectivity to Keep Patient Empowerment a Priority and Deploy a Remote Workforce

by Heidi Bullman

Sentara Healthcare is one of the few health systems that didn’t miss a beat when the pandemic hit and moved their entire non-clinical workforce to remote work in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Prior to the pandemic many healthcare systems, including Sentara, were embarking on patient-focused initiatives, but when the pandemic came many couldn’t manage deploying a remote workforce while keeping these initiatives going. For Sentara Healthcare, this was possible — all thanks to interconnectivity. 

“They [Sentara Healthcare] are ahead of the curve in terms of empowering the patient,” explained industry expert, Tim Waters of Equinix. “The visionaries at Sentara devised a strategy and a plan to provide better care by empowering patients to take charge of their own healthcare, and they kept this a priority amid a massive shift to a dynamic workforce.” 

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According to Jeffery Thomas, CTO of Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health, who spoke alongside Matt Douglas, chief enterprise architect for Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health, during the Healthcare IT webinar hosted by Equinix, the health system has been a leader in the healthcare industry for over a century. Today, it’s comprised of 12 hospitals and over 500 providers.

“[Sentara] is [committed] to connecting with the community and supporting the communities that we’re in,” explained Thomas during the webinar. “We’re very focused on that and [we] care about those communities and the individuals we provide services to. So, [what we’ve done is try to] provide a digital front door to our customers and to those in the community that allows them to interact with us both in a virtual manner – which is more advantageous in this time of COVID-19 — [while] rapidly transforming our delivery of services.” 

Prior to COVID-19, the health system chose to integrate an interconnection platform. It was their early adoption of cloud and Equinix’s platform that allowed Sentara to scale out and stand up during the pandemic. With this in place, sending their non-clinical workforce home was carried out within days, without reinventing their entire IT infrastructure and with minimal disruption to their newly minted remote workers.

Throughout the transition to remote work, Sentara continued to keep “data as close as possible to the consumer,” explained Thomas. Thanks to the health system’s work prior to the pandemic, as shelter in place orders, were issued patients still had access to their medical records including lab results, prescription and treatment plan details, other patient-critical information, and even the opportunity to connect with clinicians through a secure messaging interface.  

“Sentara Healthcare utilized an interconnection platform rooted in the cloud, that connected data from disparate systems, for the purpose of patients,” explained Waters. “This ultimately allowed them to scale up and stand up – specifically in managing their workforce – when it came to navigating the pandemic.”

Deploying a remote workforce at any time, let alone during a public health crisis would be a challenge for nearly any organization, but Sentara Healthcare took it in stride.  What made this a seamless transition was the power of an interconnected platform. While it was originally implemented to help patients connect with their clinicians, it also helped the entire health system stay connected at the most critical of times. 

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