Securing and Connecting a New Era of Remote Work

WakeMed Health and Hospitals empowered staff and patients during the Covid pandemic with secure communications. Here’s how.

istock 1205548238 cisco3
monkeybusinessimages

Many organizations were successful in making remote work happen during the global coronavirus pandemic, with 72% saying they were equipped to manage a mobile workforce, according to the Cisco CIO Impact Report: Covid-19.

WakeMed Health and Hospitals was one of them, and recently the healthcare provider shared its Covid experiences in a panel discussion during Cisco Live. The organization — which includes three hospitals and multiple facilities in the Raleigh, N.C., area — was able to quickly scale its communications and collaborations systems to handle both new infectious disease procedures, as well as standard care processes.

“We were very fortunate that we had already created strong partnerships before Covid-19 hit,” said Peter Marks, PhD., Vice President and CIO, at WakeMed. “We were able to rapidly adjust using the tools we had. Within five days, we went from having zero telemedicine appointments to 2,500 in one week.”

In addition to using Cisco WebEx for outpatient and staff meetings, WakeMed rolled out tablets loaded with Cisco Jabber for secure communications between inpatients and their care teams. The devices were placed at all regular facility bedsides, as well as newly installed tent structures for Covid patients.

“We pulled out these M*A*S*H-style tents that had different hospital wings,” said Traci Tyndall, CTO of WakeMed. “Our physicians could sit in the tent’s triage bay and video with the patient or care team in the Covid wing.”

The tablets also allowed social workers, dieticians, rehab specialists, as well as family and friends to see and talk with patients.

“We rolled out Jabber with the purpose of saving on [personal protective equipment],” Tyndall said. “But we quickly realized that it was a true patient satisfier. Being able to see different faces was really rewarding, and it gave them that personalization that I think we were missing previously.”

Critical to all this functionality was security, Marks said. Especially working in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare, it was important to work with “vendors that were really focused on having a secure and a robust network infrastructure to make sure that you could do these different things.”

Securing the Accelerated IT Agenda

The unique situations encountered during the pandemic have caused IT leaders to reflect about new possibilities and the need for resiliency going forward.

“When Covid hit, we shut almost everything else down,” Marks said. “We couldn’t do that again. People still need care. But not everything has to come to the hospital, and so we have the opportunity to keep pressing the limits on what we can do remotely with our patients. We want to be out there at the margins and asking: What else can we do in terms of patients taking care of themselves at home whenever possible?”

Cisco’s GM and SVP of the Security Business Group, Gee Rittenhouse stated, “During this global health crisis, normal has been redefined. We are living through a dynamic situation that has required us to reorient our personal and professional lives in ways we never have before. Companies have had to do the same by transitioning to virtual workplaces. As companies adapt to their new normal, securing this sudden exponential growth of remote workers and their devices remains a challenge.”

More than ever, security has become a top concern for CIOs. Organizations are now juggling to manage business and security challenges at unprecedented scale. This is putting a sudden strain on both IT and security teams who are being tasked with providing support for offsite workers and their devices.

“Supporting our customers and partners remains a top priority,” said Rittenhouse. “We have proactive steps to help companies manage the business impact and keep employees safe during this evolving situation.”

To learn more about Cisco’s simple, effective, and integrated security solution, connecting and protecting people and devices working remotely, visit: cisco.com/go/secureremoteworker.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.