Google Cloud Results
Annual growth of 50% with simple scaling
• Helps secure sensitive information with excellent oversight on data access and usage servers
• Scales managed services to match rapid annual growth of 50%
• Keeps costs in line with demand by minimising the risks of infrastructure investment
Up to one-third of Italian healthcare providers operate in the private sector, and approximately 80% of those private services are paid for directly by patients, rather than through insurance. For many ordinary people, that puts private healthcare options out of reach, which is why Centro Medico Santagostino creates efficiencies in private health that drive down the costs of treatment for the patients who need it most.
“Price is a key issue,” says Luca Foresti, CEO at Centro Medico Santagostino. “We do our best to make quality services affordable for normal families, by grouping large numbers of customers to ensure that investments are as efficient as possible. That means we aim to have full waiting rooms from 8 a.m. in the morning until 9 p.m. at night, by organising timetables for doctors exceptionally well and matching them to patients.”
Using electronic communications throughout the patient journey, Centro Medico Santagostino helps over 240,000 patients book appointments, check in, make payments, and receive documents at maximum speed and minimum cost. It has proved a winning formula that has helped the company expand at speed.
Founded in 2009, today Centro Medico Santagostino operates from 14 locations in Milan and Bologna. “We grow an average of 50% every year, and double in size around every 18 months,” says Luca. “That means everything we do has to be scalable, and it’s one of the core reasons why we chose to build our system on Google products.”
“Rather than have big jumps in investment during periods of growth, we want a very close connection between costs and income. That simply isn’t possible with physical servers, because we would always be either under capacity or paying for hardware we weren’t using yet.” Luca Foresti, CEO, Centro Medico Santagostino
“When I became CEO, we were working with on-premises servers, data centres, and an old-style approach to technology,” says Luca. “We decided to move everything to the cloud, to have a fast, flexible approach where we pay for what we use. For me, that’s part of Google’s philosophy. Rather than have big jumps in investment during periods of growth, we want a very close connection between costs and income. That simply isn’t possible with physical servers, because we would always be either under capacity or paying for hardware we weren’t using yet.”
Scaling with security and stability
Scaling communications solutions to match rapid growth can lead to unnecessary costs. For Centro Medico Santagostino, cost efficiencies made in communications and organisation are central to the company’s business model, connecting 140 employees with 700 medical professionals across 14 locations.
Working with physical communications servers meant estimating future expansion, over-provisioning hardware, and struggling to respond to new developments with the necessary speed. In addition, the company needed to address mobility concerns and email reliability issues. “We had problems with our email going down,” says Luca. “It didn’t happen every week, but it was a notable, visible problem for people. At the same time, we wanted to make things more mobile without developing additional software. We decided that with good web-based software, that mobility would be baked in.”
“I don't trust anyone to handle data security as much as I trust Google’s team of the very best professionals in the world. For me, the worst-case scenario involves a spreadsheet sent by email to the wrong person. With Google Sheets, we have excellent oversight on who reads spreadsheets and where the information goes.” Luca Foresti, CEO, Centro Medico Santagostino
To create that environment, Centro Medico Santagostino chose to deploy Google Workspace, in collaboration with cloud experts Injenia. “We looked for a company that could help us develop specific services on the Google platform, and Injenia guided and advised us through the process,” says Luca. By rolling out Gmail, Luca and his team immediately resolved the company’s email stability issues, which have not resurfaced since. At the same time, Google Calendar has formed a simple, accessible, mobile hub for organisation and timetabling, providing doctors and staff with alerts and making it easy to arrange and review appointments.
“The first impact we felt was the management of the software,” says Luca. “We don’t have to care about low-level stuff or servers—only the configuration of the system. That meant we could focus ourselves on business development and ways of using the Google Workspace tools.”
As a healthcare company handling patient details, Centro Medico Santagostino addresses security by isolating two key areas of concern: infrastructure and human error. “I don't trust anyone to handle data security as much as I trust Google’s team of the very best professionals in the world,” says Luca. “For me the worst-case scenario is unfortunately very typical in many industries, and involves a spreadsheet sent by email to the wrong person. With Google Sheets, we have far better oversight on who reads spreadsheets and where the information goes. We have a log.”
“We need to be ready to serve patients at any time, so our system can never go down or experience outages. Taking a cloud-based approach means we can build excellent redundancy measures into our services. Each of our centres has multiple means of connecting to the internet. We’ve eliminated single points of failure.” Luca Foresti, CEO, Centro Medico Santagostino
“We need to be ready to serve patients at any time, so our system can never go down or experience outages,” says Luca. “Taking a cloud-based approach means we can build excellent redundancy measures into our services. We have 14 centres in Milan and one in Bologna, and each of them has multiple means of connecting to the internet, whether that’s 3G, or fiber, or something else. We’ve eliminated single points of failure.”
Internal and external forms management
As the company grows in scale, Luca and his team have increasingly used Google Forms to collect data on Google Sheets, which helps them augment their service. “Google Forms is a great way of managing the flow of information between huge numbers of people in a very fast way, without using complex software,” says Luca. “Internally, Google Forms helps with organisation, such as when we changed our head office and asked staff through a Google Form what they would like to have in the new workplace.”
“Externally, around 100,000 patients have given us their email addresses, giving us enormous potential for direct communication and information gathering,” adds Luca. “We send them Google Forms regarding what they eat, or what exercise they do, and receive thousands of answers which help us refine our services, generate insights, compile research, and produce marketing.”
Moving into the cloud
Scalable services on Google Workspace have been instrumental in assisting Centro Medico Santagostino’s annual growth rate of 50%. “We have 850 Google Workspace accounts open at present,” says Luca, “but it’s not about what we have now, it’s about what we will have in the future. All of our doctors use Chromebooks already, as do many of our customer care specialists, and we are already almost entirely web-based.”
Centro Medico Santagostino already has nine VMs running Google Cloud Platform also handling some special diagnostic imaging applications. Now, Luca and his team are looking to leverage Google Cloud Platform with Injenia to create further scalable solutions, embracing Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Machine Learning services, and the potential of IoT for care services in the home. “We mainly use Google Cloud APIs to integrate into our processes,” says Luca. “Local companies help us with development and Google stands behind our collaborations, so we can be more secure that things are stable and trust the foundations we build on.”
“I started using Gmail in 2005,” recalls Luca. “I knew that it would develop and bring in new things, and that, if I was on the inside, I could take advantage of that. I don't know what Google will do tomorrow, but I know it will be something even stronger, and we will be riding on that wave.”
*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.