Home COVID-19 Sentara Healthcare’s Telehealth Solutions are Rooted in Interconnectivity

Sentara Healthcare’s Telehealth Solutions are Rooted in Interconnectivity

by Heidi Bullman

The initial outbreak of COVID-19 is long past but the virus continues to make an impact, particularly on how healthcare is delivered which is now via telehealth solutions. Telehealth, which became a necessity thanks to today’s public health crisis, is now part of the new normal for providers across the nation.

The universal adoption of telehealth is in fact so prevalent that the Dean of the Medical Faculty at The Johns Hopkins University and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Paul Rothman, announced at the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference that he’s anticipating that 30 percent of, what would traditionally be in-person, visits at Johns Hopkins Medicine will be delivered virtually from now on.

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And thanks to its safety and added convenience, it’s not just healthcare systems like Johns Hopkins who understand the importance of telehealth solutions, it’s state governments as well. In fact, on June 22 Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order making relaxed telehealth restrictions – which went into effect in the beginning stages of COVID-19 and waved licensing and telecommunications regulations – permanent. According to Little, these lessened restrictions proved that not only was safety able to remain the top priority in treating patients amid the outbreak, but telehealth strengthened Idaho’s healthcare workforce in the process.

However, in order for healthcare systems to take advantage of these loosened restrictions they need to ensure that their IT infrastructure is ready.

Sentara Healthcare, which owns Optima Health, is just one health system that accelerated their use of telehealth during the pandemic. In just two weeks Sentara Healthcare went from 75 providers on their telehealth platform to 2,000 and experienced 60,000 daily visitors who accessed their Sentara and Optima Patient Portal for test results, patient records, billing, and insurance purposes.

To drive such rapid change and expansion, Sentara was able to take advantage of their investment in an interconnected platform, leveraging cloud-based operations. By operating on a network peering model and eliminating the need for third-party networks, they were able to connect 12 hospitals and more than 300 care facilities all without any outages. “[The key is to] invest in interconnection and cloud sooner than later,” explained Matt Douglas, chief enterprise architect for Sentara Healthcare & Optima Health, in an interview with industry expert, Tim Waters of Equinix when asked about advice for other healthcare organizations.

Telehealth solutions are here to stay thanks to rapid adoption on behalf of healthcare systems and the support of state governments. Whether hospitals are battling the pandemic or just operating as part of the new normal moving forward, their IT infrastructures must be rooted in the simple yet significant concept of interconnectivity.

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