Thursday, February 22, 2024
From the WireTechnology

Sentara Health saves $5.8M annually via migration to cloud

Discover how Sentara Health, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, has successfully saved $5.8 million annually through their migration to the cloud. By leveraging cloud technologies, Sentara has been able to enhance operational efficiency, improve patient care, and strengthen data security. The article explores how Sentara embarked on a digital front door initiative, implemented a mobile app for patients, and strategically moved their applications and services to the cloud. With a comprehensive cloud security framework and the use of automation tools, Sentara has achieved enhanced security posture, regulatory compliance, scalability, and cost-effective security. The results? Almost 80% of their applications are now in the cloud, leading to significant decreases in data center costs and improved recovery time for mission-critical applications.


Sentara Health is a not-for-profit health system, considered one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions and ranked among the top 20 largest in the country. With a workforce of 30,000 employees, Sentara Health operates 12 hospitals in Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina, as well as the Sentara Health Plans division, which serves over 1.2 million members in Virginia and Florida.

Sentara Health Overview

Sentara Health is a prominent healthcare organization that operates numerous hospitals and a health plans division. With a focus on delivering high-quality patient care, Sentara Health aims to leverage technology and innovation to enhance operational efficiency and strengthen data security.

The Digital Front Door Initiative

In 2018, Sentara Health launched the digital front door initiative, a strategic effort to improve patient experience and provide easier access to healthcare services through the use of technology. One key component of this initiative was the development of a mobile app that allows patients to schedule appointments, access medical records, and communicate with healthcare providers. This mobile app aims to provide a seamless and personalized patient experience, eliminating the need for phone calls or in-person visits for routine tasks.

The Problem

Sentara Health recognized the need to securely architect, deploy, and manage applications, services, and assets in the cloud to support its digital front door initiative. As businesses increasingly migrate to cloud-based environments, ensuring the security of sensitive data and applications becomes a paramount concern. While cloud computing offers numerous benefits, it also introduces new security challenges that organizations must address.

Goals of Cloud Migration

The primary goals of Sentara Health’s cloud migration were to enhance operational efficiency, improve patient care, and strengthen data security. By leveraging cloud technologies, Sentara Health aimed to transform its IT infrastructure and deliver improved patient outcomes.

Challenges of Cloud Security

Migrating to the cloud introduces security challenges that organizations must address. Cloud environments require robust security measures to protect sensitive data and ensure the integrity of operations. Sentara Health recognized the need to understand and implement a comprehensive cloud security framework to safeguard its cloud-based infrastructures effectively.

The Proposal

To address the security challenges associated with cloud migration, Sentara Health developed a cloud security framework that offers a comprehensive approach to protecting cloud infrastructures. This framework leverages advanced technologies and implements industry best practices to ensure the security of sensitive data and operations.

Understanding the Cloud Security Framework

Sentara Health’s cloud security framework encompasses several key components that work together to safeguard sensitive data and mitigate potential security threats. These components include:

  1. Secure data processing: The framework incorporates advanced encryption algorithms, secure data transmission protocols, and robust access controls to safeguard data at every stage, from storage to processing.
  2. Anomaly detection and threat monitoring: The framework utilizes sophisticated anomaly detection mechanisms to identify and mitigate potential security threats by analyzing network traffic patterns, user behavior, and system logs.
  3. Secure data storage: Sentara Health’s framework employs encryption methods to protect sensitive information at rest, rendering it unreadable to unauthorized users. It also includes mechanisms for secure key management to ensure secure access to encrypted data.
  4. Scalability and performance optimization: The framework emphasizes scalability and performance optimization to cater to the dynamic needs of cloud-based environments. It enables organizations to scale their cloud infrastructure seamlessly, ensuring robust security measures despite increasing data volumes and processing demands.
  5. Data encryption and privacy: The framework utilizes encryption techniques to protect sensitive data at rest and in transit, making it unreadable to unauthorized individuals. It also emphasizes privacy controls to ensure compliance with privacy laws and regulations.

Key Components of the Framework

Sentara Health’s cloud security framework includes key components such as secure data processing, anomaly detection and threat monitoring, secure data storage, scalability and performance optimization, and data encryption and privacy. These components work together to provide a robust and comprehensive security posture for Sentara Health’s cloud-based operations.

Meeting the Challenge

Implementing the cloud security framework brings various benefits and requires specific approaches to ensure effective deployment and management of security measures.

Benefits of the Cloud Security Framework

Adopting the cloud security framework offers several benefits, including:

  1. Enhanced security posture: Organizations significantly improve their security posture in cloud environments by adopting this framework. The comprehensive approach covers various facets of security, ensuring vulnerabilities are addressed holistically.
  2. Regulatory compliance: Organizations operating in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, can leverage the framework to establish and maintain compliance with industry-specific regulations. The risk assessment and compliance management components help identify and rectify compliance gaps.
  3. Scalability and flexibility: The framework is designed to scale with the evolving needs of organizations, adapting to different cloud environments, including private, public, and hybrid clouds. This scalability and flexibility make it suitable for various business requirements.
  4. Cost-effective security: Adopting a unified security framework allows organizations to streamline their security operations, reducing the need for multiple disparate solutions. This consolidation leads to cost savings while ensuring comprehensive protection against cyber threats.

Automation and Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

To streamline and enhance the deployment process of the cloud security framework, Sentara Health employed automation tools and methodologies. The use of infrastructure as code (IaC) principles allowed for standardized and automated deployment of the security framework across multiple cloud environments. This approach eliminated the need for manual configuration, reducing the risk of human error and resulting in a more secure and consistent deployment.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

Sentara Health leveraged continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines to automate the entire deployment lifecycle of the security framework. This approach facilitated seamless integration of code changes, automated testing, and deployment of the security enhancements, ensuring faster iterations and prompt deployment in the cloud environment.

Intelligent Orchestration and Configuration Management

To further enhance the automation of the cloud security framework, Sentara Health employed intelligent orchestration and configuration management tools. These tools enabled centralized management and automation of security control configurations, ensuring all cloud instances were adequately secured and compliant with industry standards. Additionally, automated monitoring and alerting systems were implemented to proactively detect and respond to any security incidents or vulnerabilities.


The implementation of Sentara Health’s cloud security framework has yielded several positive results and key success metrics.

Key Success Metrics

Since the start of its cloud migration journey in July 2018, Sentara Health has achieved the following success metrics:

  1. Approximately 80% of all applications are now in the cloud.
  2. Sentara Health has realized an annual cost reduction of $5.8 million (approximately 30%) in data center costs compared to the baseline.
  3. The reduction in operating expenses was achieved through reductions in labor costs, software maintenance, data center equipment and maintenance, and utilities.
  4. The recovery posture has significantly improved, with complete recovery of mission-critical applications now taking 4 to 12 hours, compared to the previous 10-12 days at 20% capacity and 30 days for full recovery. This improvement was accompanied by a 28% cost reduction compared to running on-premise.

These results demonstrate the significant benefits and cost savings that Sentara Health has achieved through its cloud migration and the implementation of the cloud security framework.

Cloud Migration Timeline

Sentara Health began its cloud migration journey in July 2018. Since then, the organization has made significant progress in migrating its applications to the cloud environment. The comprehensive cloud migration timeline allowed Sentara Health to steadily move towards its goal of enhancing operational efficiency, improving patient care, and strengthening data security.

Cost Reductions and Recovery Time Improvements

The implementation of the cloud security framework has led to substantial cost reductions for Sentara Health. By leveraging cloud technologies and adopting a unified security framework, the organization has achieved an annual cost reduction of $5.8 million in data center costs, resulting in significant savings.

Furthermore, the recovery time for mission-critical applications has improved significantly, with complete recovery now taking 4 to 12 hours compared to the previous 10-12 days and 30 days. This improvement allows Sentara Health to recover quickly from potential disruptions, ensuring continuous and uninterrupted patient care.


The cloud migration journey and the implementation of Sentara Health’s cloud security framework have had a positive impact on the organization. By leveraging cloud technologies, Sentara Health has enhanced operational efficiency, improved patient care, and strengthened data security.

The cloud security framework, with its comprehensive approach and key components, has been instrumental in achieving these goals. By adopting the framework, Sentara Health has enhanced its security posture, achieved regulatory compliance, and realized cost savings. The automation and infrastructure as code principles, along with continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines, have streamlined and accelerated the deployment process, ensuring the highest level of security.

Looking to the future, Sentara Health plans to further expand and optimize its cloud-based operations. The success achieved so far has demonstrated the potential of cloud technologies in transforming healthcare organizations and enhancing patient outcomes.

Source: Sentara Health saves $5.8M annually via migration to cloud