Customer Story

Ascension: Redefining collaboration across the continuum of care

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Ascension digitally transforms how its 160,000 employees communicate and collaborate with each other.

Google Workspace Results

• Enhanced collaboration among hospital administrators, care providers, and others
• Facilitated smooth, rapid transition to remote working prompted by COVID-19 pandemic
• Transformed associate communications with near universal adoption of video using Google Meet

Guided by compassion

“Clear, secure communication and effective collaboration is vital to everything we do. We need digital tools that offer the right mix of features, ease of use, and security. That’s why we standardized on Google Workspace.” — Eduardo Conrado, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Ascension

Walk through the doors of any Ascension site of care, whether it be a hospital, clinic or emergency room, and compassionate, personalized care is on full display. It’s at the heart of Ascension’s mission to provide holistic care that sustains and improves communities and the lives of individuals, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

The organization’s highly skilled teams strive to not only understand a patient’s health needs but also see everyone as individuals deserving of personalized, compassionate care. Last year alone, Ascension provided over $2.4 billion in care of persons in poverty and other community benefit programs, and through its community impact and Ascension Medical Mission at Home program, it extends its spirit of caring to people of all ages in all communities, regardless of someone’s ability to pay for services.

It’s these values that first drew Eduardo Conrado to Ascension. Today, as Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, he is responsible for deploying technology and driving digital transformation across the organization, which last year provided almost 15 million physician office and clinic visits and three million emergency room visits at its 2,600 sites of care.

“I came to Ascension to play a part in making a difference,” says Conrado. “And the organization empowers people to do just that. One of our core values is creativity, which emphasizes courageous innovation. As a leader, it’s inspiring to see how we can use technology to not only benefit an organization of this size but also better serve patients.”

Modernizing collaboration for impact

When Conrado arrived at Ascension two years ago, the 160,000-employee organization relied on a large mix of siloed collaboration tools, leaving administrators and healthcare providers often reliant on teleconferencing and more traditional approaches for sharing and updating documents.

This presented several challenges. “In terms of phone conferences, you never really knew if people on the other end of the line were paying attention or what their reactions were,” explains Conrado. “At the same time, collaborating on documents using email or paper presents problems, whether it’s tracking who’s provided input, centralizing comments, or ensuring security, just to name a few.”

“Clear, secure and effective collaboration is vital to everything we do,” says Conrado. “We need digital tools that offer the right mix of features, ease of use, and security. That’s why we standardized on Google Workspace.”

A bold migration plan

Conrado was familiar with Google Workspace based on his experience at other companies—and it offered everything he felt Ascension needed: a cloud-based, device-agnostic collaboration platform with a strong video component. Furthermore, Conrado was reassured by the platform’s HIPAA compliance to help protect personal, health-related data.

With the decision to move to Google Workspace, Conrado set an ambitious plan in motion. His first step was meeting with teams from Google Cloud and Maven Wave, a Google Cloud Premier Partner. Together, the teams designed a bold migration plan that focused on moving the organization’s 160,000 employees to Google Workspace at the same time and as quickly as possible.

“To achieve the cultural change we needed, it was best to migrate everyone at the same time,” explains Conrado “We wanted all employees to shift to new ways of working together and begin seeing immediate benefits.”

As in any digital transformation—especially one of this size and scope—effective change management and internal communications are critical to success. With that in mind, Conrado’s team met with leaders from functional areas to discuss plans and challenges, and identify special use cases. Meanwhile, internal awareness of Google Workspace was achieved through ongoing communication ahead of the launch, with an emphasis on the anticipated positive impacts on collaboration and innovation.

Conrado opted for Maven Wave’s recommended deployment strategy to mitigate risks. The approach included migrating associates’ mail, calendar, contacts and file storage system containing a total of more than 100TB of data. Maven Wave’s change management plan involved delivering over 500 trainings and 150 white-glove sessions to help ensure day-one productivity as soon as employees started using the tools.

Ascension’s IT team became the first Google Workspace users and then the platform was released to 10,000 ‘super users’, who would train and serve as a resource for their respective departments. “We were undertaking one of the largest, single enterprise migrations to Google Workspace in the world,” says Conrado. “We worked with Google Cloud and Maven Wave to ensure success.”

The planning and preparation paid off. In just one weekend, Google Workspace launched to Ascension’s workforce working in thousands of facilities across the U.S.

Topnotch execution, immense scale

Conrado credits the success in part to support from Google Cloud and Maven Wave. “From the up-front planning and integration work to the exhaustive ‘train the trainer’ programs, Google Cloud and Maven Wave were by our side the entire journey,” says Ashley Krueger, a director in the Strategy and Innovation group.

Conrado adds that there was a strong cultural fit too, with the Google Cloud and Maven Wave teams demonstrating a deep understanding of what Ascension wanted to achieve culturally, technically, and strategically.

Being put to the test

Shortly after Google Workspace went live, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, leading many employees to work from home. Ascension's well-thought-out migration, combined with the ease of using Google Workspace and its multi-device compatibility, helped ease the transition to what could have been a very challenging shift.

“We made a mostly painless transition to remote working, which is incredible for an organization of our size,” says Jeff Hoffmaster, Senior Director of Collaboration Technologies. “There were several positive outcomes, including our moving away from about 800 phone conferences per day to a near 100% uptake of video conferencing using Google Meet.”

At Ascension, internal communications has been transformed in both expected and unexpected ways. “The near universal embrace of video is a major unexpected shift,” says Conrado.“I’d say that the expectation to see each other’s faces is now etched into our culture.”

In addition, Gmail search capabilities are proving popular, as is Google Drive, which people now use regularly as a central repository to securely manage and share documents. Teams across the organization have become heavy users of Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Drive due to the importance of creating and distributing carefully curated content to thousands of locations.

For instance, in response to COVID-19, Ascension prioritized getting critical education resources out to all teams in Intensive Care Units, Emergency Departments, and Acute Care facilities. “We used Google Workspace apps to enable rapid, accurate collaboration on documents to allow providers to collaborate on best practices for hands-on care, safety, and other critical activities,” explains Krueger. “Previous barriers we encountered when trying to collaborate on documents at this scale, including problems sharing materials across multiple network drives, were eliminated.”

Google Meet was also instrumental in allowing the organization to institute active listening sessions, called Virtual Rounds, that provided staff across the Ascension organization the opportunity to communicate their needs for ongoing education, resources, and support.

Committed to improvement

"The near universal embrace of video is a major unexpected shift," says Conrado. "I'd say that the expectation to see each other's faces is now etched into our culture."

As everyday users of Google Workspace, Ascension organization employees regularly suggest enhancements to the platform, such as noise-cancelling capabilities, mobile app refinements, and single app platform access. These recommendations are then shared among Ascension’s IT team and with Google Cloud and Maven Wave during product roadmap meetings.

For Conrado, it’s the continuing opportunity to reimagine associate experiences that gets him most excited as teams expand their Google Workspace use. “Part of our strategic direction is to provide Healthcare That Leaves No One Behind,” he explains. “It’s easy to envision how Google Workspace will enable every employee to work even better from anywhere to move us along on our journey to improve the lives of anyone needing care.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.

Google Cloud Premier Partner

About Maven Wave

Maven Wave is a Google Cloud Premier Partner specializing in cloud and mobile applications, data analytics, experience design, and cloud infrastructure.