Customer Story

Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc: Transforming the aged care experience with Google Cloud and Google Workspace

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With Google Cloud, Southern Cross Care is undertaking a digital transformation that improves efficiencies in critical areas such as shift assignment, email access and audit and compliance, and enables the organization to overcome disruptive challenges such as residential aged care visitation restrictions during the pandemic.

Google Cloud Results

Reduces the time to collate, prepare and send spot-check audit and accreditation reports to government from days to minutes

• Saves several hours in assigning shifts to casual workers
• Reduces the time to access email from 30 minutes to 30 seconds or less
• Enables communication between residents and loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic

Compassionate and effective aged care is a key indicator of social maturity and not-for-profit organizations like Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc play a crucial role in its delivery. Founded in 1968, the organization provides aged care and retirement living services to residents of the named jurisdictions under what Chris Balogi, Head of ICT, describes as a ‘Better for Life Framework’. The organization, which operates 17 residential care homes with around 1,500 residents, 39 retirement living villages,home care packages and more, executes this framework through initiatives such as introducing gyms and associated health professionals, exercise physiologists and fitness specialists across its network.

Southern Cross Care operates and provides services in a highly disrupted environment, with prospective changes to funding structures and reporting requirements arising from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety adding to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the transformative impact of mobile, cloud and digital technologies on operations and service delivery. However, a regularly updated ICT roadmap and corporate strategy is positioning the organization to overcome challenges and provide even better experiences to residents, families and its own staff. “This strategy aligns to the use of digital technology and information and our journey to the cloud,” explains Chris. “I’ve been with the business for 18 months and I’m driving the cloud aspect of that strategy.”

The organization’s shift to the cloud – for data, infrastructure, workplace applications and other products and services – was well established before the pandemic, with board approval and wholehearted support for the use of technology to enhance its capabilities. Prior to the decision to move to Google Cloud including Google Workspace, Southern Cross Care relied on disparate systems, databases and tools that limited staff access to critical data for reporting and insight.

“There were a number of reasons we chose Google Cloud, with each product and service considered according to a range of factors,” says Chris. “We looked at factors such as minimizing IT overheads, enhancing security, improving operational efficiencies, minimizing project complexities and delivering enhanced business outcomes with existing personnel within manageable timeframes.”

Change management critical to success

Executing the transition to Google Workspace presented some challenges and Chris points to the value of effective change management to an organization whose staff have limited time to attend scheduled training sessions. To overcome this, Southern Cross Care implemented measures such as signing up business champions and super users of Google Workspace; using Google Classroom and Google Meet to deliver educational programs including training sessions that could be replayed at convenient times for staff; and promoting the transition through wallpapers, posters and regular emails.

Chris and his team also sat down with staff who were slower to make the change to encourage them to think about their business and client outcomes and how the new tools could help them realize them. The functionality of Forms in particular helped overcome staff reservations. “Our people picked that product up and realized the value it could add, and it’s those lightbulb moments that open their eyes and start to consider the opportunities the change presents,” says Chris.

Southern Cross Care used Forms to replace a laborious staff shift assignment process that required its care team to send emails to casual workers’ personal addresses to determine whether they were available, and collect and evaluate responses. This process took the team considerable time and, if it could not find someone to work a shift, would require it to outsource to an agency, incurring additional costs. With Forms, the care team could generate and send out a single form to all relevant casual workers on file and quickly filter, slice and dice the information to identify who was available to work what shift and where. “This saved us several hours over the course of a week,” explains Chris. “Previously, a team member might have to send emails out to up to 200 people at a time and review 50-80 responses to each message – taking them an hour or more each time.”

Chrome OS devices replace legacy thin clients

Southern Cross Care complemented its move to Google Workspace with the replacement of outdated thin clients and computers with Chrome OS devices. The program started when Chris reviewed how best to support use cases involving casual workers, shared staff and external agency staff that required access to online medication and care systems. “Shared Chrome OS devices in kiosk mode were a good option in nursing homes for staff who were not directory users, but needed a way to log in to these systems” says Chris, who then determined that the devices were ideal for the lightweight computer usage – signing in to web pages, using email and accessing documents – of most of the organization’s staff.

Security also played a critical role in the proliferation of Chrome throughout the organization. “Not having to manage endpoint protection thanks to Chrome OS security prompted me to change part way through the project from targeting 80% of our computers for replacement with Chrome OS devices to targeting 99% replacement, and that is where we have ended up,” says Chris.

The coronavirus pandemic delivered an early test of the ability of Google Workspace and Chrome OS to meet the organization’s requirements. When the pandemic struck, residents and their families asked Southern Cross Care how they could communicate when in-person visits to care homes were restricted. “Google gave us the licenses we needed to deploy devices and cloud–based apps into residential care sites so families could communicate with loved ones over Google Meet video calls,” says Chris, adding that doctors used the same devices to consult with nurses on-site without having to be physically present – a highly effective interim way to minimize their movement during the pandemic as the organization transitioned to a more structured telehealth program.

The organization continues to provide the video service to residents and families, and has extended it to all staff so they can make or join calls at any time

Email access times reduced from 30 minutes to 30 seconds or less

“Casual staff in a hurry would have to go away and come back up to several times to log on to their email. All these people want to do is look quickly at important messages, go away and provide the care they are with us for. With Gmail, they can log in in 30 seconds or less and see or respond to what they need to, greatly improving their efficiency and giving them more time to spend with residents.” - Chris Balogi, Head of ICT, Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc

As well as video calls through Google Meet, Southern Cross Care staff can now immediately log in to Gmail – rather than, as required under its previous system, wait up to 30 minutes to access their mail. “Casual staff in a hurry would have to go away and come back up to several times to log on to their email,” says Chris. “All these people want to do is look quickly at important messages, go away and provide the care they are with us for. “With Gmail booting on Chrome OS devices, they can log in in 30 seconds or less and see or respond to what they need to, greatly improving their efficiency and giving them more time to spend with residents.”

The organization is looking to further enhance its efficiencies and availability of information by using Sites to help replace its aging, unsupported intranet. Chris’s team worked closely with the Southern Cross Care marketing team to review the product and determine its suitability for the project, and is now investing and working with a third party to deliver. The project team is now converting hundreds of templates and other assets within the existing intranet to Docs and Sheets, and the new intranet is forecast to go live in early 2022.

Southern Cross Care has also nearly completed a project to migrate its documentation into Google Cloud and by 14 October 2021 the organization has shifted 95% of these files into Drive for storage and synchronization. Over the next six to 12 months, the business plans to review how best to achieve its business outcomes for the remaining 5% – which primarily comprises spreadsheets and documents of 100+ pages each – and is looking to analysis and visualization through BigQuery and Data Studio as the answer.

These Google Cloud products are already well entrenched and delivering value within Southern Cross Care, with Chris deeply impressed with their features, functionality and ease of use. “One of the things that appealed to me about BigQuery, Data Studio and other business intelligence products was their simplicity and the opportunity they presented for us to upskill our team members and take ownership of data analysis and presentation,” says Chris.

Tailoring dashboards easily a key driver

“That dynamic ability to use an inhouse team to tailor dashboards to meet requirements without waiting for a consultant to come in was a key driver for me to use Data Studio.” - Chris Balogi, Head of ICT, Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc

The organization moved its dashboards to Data Studio and the opportunity to create and redesign dashboards quickly proved important during the pandemic when vaccination reporting requirements changed frequently and it had to provide details to government authorities daily on the vaccination status of its staff. “That dynamic ability to use an inhouse team to tailor dashboards to meet requirements without waiting for a consultant to come in was a key driver for me to use Data Studio,” says Chris.

Furthermore, Southern Cross Care used Data Studio to build an audit dashboard to support the reporting required when government inspectors make unannounced site visits, or scheduled visits as part of the re-accreditation process. Previously, it could take the organization up to two days to collate the required data and reports and hand them over – now, individual sites can visit the dashboard and simply run the required reports. “We get at least one of those visits per month, so we save several days’ reporting time with Data Studio,” says Chris.

Consolidating to a single environment

“ I like to keep things simple and real - and a lot of our strategy is based on delivering results and avoiding unwieldy overheads. Google Cloud delivers that while opening up future opportunities through AI to predict, for example, when a person may be likely to fall, and allow organizations like ours to implement preventative measures to protect and improve their health and wellbeing.” - Chris Balogi, Head of ICT, Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc

To consolidate its IT footprint into a single environment, Southern Cross Care is moving its legacy application servers into Google Cloud and using Cloud Identity to manage single sign-on to applications. “I’m not a big fan of having systems in different places and worrying about data flows, interconnectivity and firewall rules between platforms,” says Chris. “It made more sense, especially with Google Cloud operating in Sydney and now the center in Melbourne, for us to leverage those platforms.

“Overall, I like to keep things simple and real – and a lot of our strategy is based on delivering results and avoiding unwieldy overheads. Google Cloud delivers that while opening up future opportunities through AI to predict, for example, when an aged person may be likely to fall, and allow organizations like ours to implement preventative measures.”

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