Sentara Health is a not-for-profit health system, one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region and one of the 20 largest in the nation, with 30,000 employees, 12 hospitals in Virginia and in northeastern North Carolina, and Sentara Health. Plan Division, serving more than 1.2 million members in Virginia and Florida.
Sentara embarked on the cloud computing journey to improve operational efficiencies, improve patient care and strengthen data security. Through strategic work with vendors and innovative initiatives, Sentara has leveraged cloud technologies to transform its IT infrastructure with the goal of improving patient outcomes.
In 2018, Sentara launched its Digital Front Door initiative to improve the patient experience and improve access to healthcare services through technology and innovation.
“The Digital Front Door includes various components intended to make healthcare more convenient and accessible for patients,” said Tim Skeen, executive vice president and CIO of Sentara Health. “One of the key elements was the implementation of a mobile application that allows patients to schedule appointments, access medical records and communicate with healthcare providers.
“This app provides a seamless and personalized patient experience, eliminating the need for phone calls or in-person visits for routine tasks,” he added.
To strategically evolve Sentara into a digital front door, staff recognized the need to securely architect, deploy and manage applications, services and assets in the cloud, he said.
“As we looked to deploy the digital front door, we also recognized the need for a consumer-facing cloud application, our enterprise data platform, our EHR, our CRM, our claims and many other strategic and commercial applications. » Skeen recalled.
“As businesses increasingly migrate to cloud-based environments, ensuring the security of sensitive data and applications becomes paramount,” he continued. “Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses operate, but also introduced new security challenges. »
Skeen said the first step is to understand the cloud security framework.
“The Cloud Security Framework provides a comprehensive approach to protecting cloud infrastructures, leveraging advanced technologies and implementing industry best practices,” he explained. “This technology provides a solid foundation for the cloud security framework, enabling organizations to protect sensitive data and ensure the integrity of their cloud-based operations. »
“By defining cloud infrastructure through code, we could standardize and automate the deployment of their security framework across multiple cloud environments. »
Tim Skeen, Sentara Health
Key elements of the framework, Skeen emphasized, include:
- Secure data processing. The patent encompasses advanced techniques for secure data processing in the cloud. It includes encryption algorithms, secure data transmission protocols, and robust access controls to protect data at every stage, from storage to processing.
- Anomaly detection and threat monitoring. The patent incorporates sophisticated anomaly detection mechanisms to identify and mitigate potential security threats. This technology can detect abnormal activities indicating a security breach by analyzing network traffic patterns, user behavior and system logs.
- Secure data storage. The patent’s data storage capabilities ensure that sensitive information remains protected at rest. It uses encryption methods to encrypt data before storing it, making it unreadable for unauthorized users. Additionally, the patent includes secure key management mechanisms, ensuring secure access to encrypted data.
- Scalability and performance optimization. The patent emphasizes scalability and performance optimization to meet the dynamic needs of cloud-based environments. It allows organizations to scale their cloud infrastructure seamlessly, ensuring that security measures remain robust despite increasing data volumes and processing demands.
- Data encryption and confidentiality. The framework uses encryption techniques to protect sensitive data at rest and in transit. Encryption ensures that even if data is compromised, it remains unreadable to unauthorized people. Additionally, the framework emphasizes privacy controls, ensuring compliance with privacy laws and regulations.
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Skeen said the cloud security framework has many benefits, including:
- Improved security posture. By adopting this framework, organizations can significantly improve their security posture in cloud environments. The holistic approach covers various facets of security, ensuring that vulnerabilities are addressed holistically.
- Regulatory conformity. Organizations operating in highly regulated industries like healthcare can leverage this framework to establish and maintain compliance with regulations specific to their industry. Risk assessment and compliance management components help organizations identify and remediate compliance gaps.
- Scalability and flexibility. The framework is designed to evolve with the changing needs of organizations. It can adapt to different cloud environments, including private, public and hybrid clouds, making it suitable for various business requirements.
- Cost-effective security. Organizations can streamline their security operations by adopting a unified security framework, reducing the need for multiple disparate solutions. This consolidation saves money while ensuring complete protection against cyber threats.
“Automated deployment of cloud security framework technologies was used to streamline and improve the process,” Skeen explained. “Optafi, a cloud security provider, recognized the need for an automated approach to deploying its security framework to effectively protect cloud environments. By implementing automation tools and methodologies, we were able to simplify and accelerate the deployment process while ensuring the highest level of security.
“One of the key aspects of the automation strategy was the use of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) principles,” he continued. “By defining cloud infrastructure through code, we could standardize and automate the deployment of their security framework across multiple cloud environments. »
This eliminates the need for manual configuration and reduces the risk of human error, allowing for a more secure and consistent deployment, he added.
“Additionally, we leveraged continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines to automate the entire deployment lifecycle,” he noted. “CI/CD pipelines facilitate the seamless integration of code changes, automated testing, and security framework deployment. This enables faster iterations and ensures that the latest security enhancements are quickly deployed to the cloud environment.
“Intelligent orchestration and configuration management tools have been used to further enhance the automation of the cloud security framework,” he continued. “These tools allow us to manage and automate the configuration of security controls centrally, ensuring that all cloud instances are properly secured and compliant with industry standards. »
Additionally, automated monitoring and alerting systems have been implemented to proactively detect and respond to any security incidents or vulnerabilities, it said.
Skeen reported some key indicators of cloud program success:
- Sentara’s cloud migration journey began in July 2018.
- Nearly 80% of all applications are now in the cloud.
- Sentara realizes an annual reduction of $5.8 million (approximately 30%) in data center costs compared to the baseline.
- The reduction in operating expenses comes from reduced costs for labor, software maintenance, equipment and maintenance of data centers and utilities.
- Sentara’s migration to the cloud changed the recovery time from 10-12 days at 20% capacity and 30 days for full recovery to 4-12 hours for full recovery of critical applications with a 28% cost reduction execution on site.
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