Sentara Uses Identity to Help Drive Better Health Outcomes


I spent part of the summer helping my mother recover from a major surgery. During our time together, she asked: “What is it your company does again?” So I explained: “We help manage digital identities. For example, if your healthcare system used ForgeRock, you could login to the website and see your records and medications from your surgeon, your GI specialist, your general practitioner, your physical therapist and more. And when you call the helpcenter, the operator would also have this information and be able to help you faster.” 

If anyone has recently dealt with a major healthcare issue, what I just described could be characterized as a “pipe dream.” But Sentara, a not-for-profit Southeastern United States healthcare provider, has made that vision a reality.

Sentara serves Virginia and parts of North Carolina with 12 hospitals, including a Level 1 trauma center, cancer center, two orthopedic hospitals and a Neuroscience Institute. It is a $12 billion organization celebrating more than 130 years of improving people’s lives every day. And, based on my recent interview with Sentara IT Director Tom Caudron, Sentara is laser focused on that objective.

“I have never worked for such a mission-driven organization. Sentara is truly focused on improving the lives of patients and doing good in the world,” Tom said. “Many insurers focus on reducing utilization, but since we are a non-profit we can truly focus on what matters most: Improving patients’ lives.” 

This goal was emphasized throughout our discussion. “I lead Sentara’s digital transformation efforts, looking at how technology improves healthcare outcomes, connecting payers and providers and generally improving the overall healthcare journey,” Tom said. 

He gave examples such as making sure a newly single mom and her baby are enrolled in Medicaid before leaving the hospital so healthcare is one less worry for the new mom, and making sure a healthy man who has a family-history of colon cancer gets regular screenings. “Technology can help us accomplish these goals,” Tom said. “We are really the plumbers, making sure we have the right technology in place so we can focus on our speciality, which is healthcare. And with that technology, we can turn records into patients in order to deliver better health outcomes.”

Identity, and in particular ForgeRock, is literally playing a central role in Sentara’s mission to improve patients’ lives. Tom explains: “ForgeRock serves as the hub of our technology hub-and-spoke model approach to healthcare. Our patients, through our website and app, will be the hubs. With ForgeRock’s help, we can create a 360-degree view of patients in order to connect them to the right services and providers they need to improve their lives.”

Tom further elaborated by saying, “We will be able to create a hyper-personalized healthcare experience: Each customer is their own hub and each spoke will connect them to apps and services that help improve their lives. For example, someone struggling with depression may have a spoke that connects that patient to a loneliness app, a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, a pharmacy for medications, a lab for blood and other test results, etc. We will give patients the steering wheel to drive their healthcare outcomes.”

ForgeRock will also provide a better overall experience for customers in many ways. Tom says, “Single sign-on (SSO) will allow patients to seamlessly and securely weave among their applications, test results and more, giving our patients 360-degree views of their overall health. And they will eventually be able to log in through social media as well. By providing this critical information and making that, as well as individual care, easy to access and use, we are empowering patients and that will improve healthcare outcomes.”

With this 360-degree view of customers, Sentara’s customer service will also greatly improve. “Say a customer is looking at cardiologists on our website and then calls our helpdesk. We can have that information handy and immediately be prepared to answer any heart-related questions,” Tom said. “We will also have that 360-degree view so if the patient isn’t calling to ask about heart health, we can quickly pivot to address other concerns. It’s all about being prepared, responsive and helpful.” This, in turn, will help reduce the length of calls made to the helpdesk and increase overall customer satisfaction.

The same benefit will apply to customers using telemedicine. With the right access to the right information, patients’ healthcare providers can have the critical 360-degree view of their patients’ health history in order to best treat them. 

The new system will also improve Sentara’s data, which will, in turn, also improve customer service and telemedicine services. One way Tom described was by eliminating duplications, which often clutter the data view. This can delay care as providers try to sort out “what is what,” and even cause confusion. 

The new infrastructure is being deployed in a hybrid IT environment. Having the option to deploy on-prem or in the cloud gives Sentara the flexibility to tailor application delivery, as well as easily integrate new systems through possible upcoming acquisitions.

Sentara is also implementing ForgeRock to help its payer community. With a 360-degree view of customers, payers can build and manage personalized, secure and interoperable interactions with patients in an affordable manner. Like with providers, Sentara will be leveraging ForgeRock’s trees to create personalized and pleasant healthcare journeys.

“Identity drives consumer engagement, and ForgeRock really does clarify that critical information for patients,” Tom said. “We will get patients access to the right type of care whether that’s a loneliness app, an oncologist, or anything an individual needs. We will make it visually appealing and a seamless transition from our apps to other apps, providing a single experience that looks like one easy journey--regardless of how many spokes emit from the hub.” 

Sentara is beginning with one million identities to help the organization deliver what every patient needs. As Tom says, “When people are going through tough times, they don’t need any additional tough moments so we want care to be accessible and easy for our patients. This will ultimately deliver good healthy outcomes and create a healthier community.” 

Learn how ForgeRock helps healthcare organizations differentiate service while reducing risk and costs.