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Delivering quality healthcare with secure online collaboration to keep patients and staff safe

Around the world, healthcare systems are going digital to improve patient care and operational efficiency. According to McKinsey, the use of telehealth for office visits and outpatient care is 38 times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC), a private healthcare institution in the Philippines, introduced video conferencing on Google Meet to provide patients with secure and convenient medical access for non-urgent issues from anywhere.

Teleconsultations help SLMC minimize the risk of health workers from possible infection and maximize in-person services for people with critical conditions. Fortunately, the hospital deployed Google Workspace in 2019, so it was ready for teleconsultations on Google Meet from day one of the pandemic lockdown.

"Google Workspace provides a platform for growth and innovation to accommodate our current and future requirements."

Dr. Alvin Marcelo, Senior VP of Technology & Chief Information and Technology Officer

“The great impact of Google Workspace is access to an easy-to-use video conferencing application during the strict periods of the lockdown,” says Dr. Alvin Marcelo, Senior Vice President of Technology and Chief Information and Technology Officer at St. Luke’s Medical Center. “Google Cloud demonstrates a scalable and secure platform - this is a difficult combination because scale and growth often involve risks. Google Workspace provides a platform for growth and innovation to accommodate our current and future requirements.”

At the height of the lockdown from March to April 2020, SLMC operated at reduced capacity in line with government guidelines to limit workplace transmission. All SLMC clinical staff such as nurses, pharmacists, residents, and fellows rotated between working in the hospital and remotely. With Google Workspace, SLMC employees were able to securely connect with patients and colleagues on Google Meet and collaborate using Google Docs and Google Sheets from any location. Clinical staff reverted to working on-site as a default when the strict lockdown period ended in June 2020.

Seamless patient journey through remote doctor visits

Although teleconsultations cannot replace hands-on assessments, it helps physicians to conduct preliminary checks with patients to determine whether they need in-person care at the hospital. At the same time, teleconsultations reduce stress for patients and caregivers who are wary of going to the hospital, face mobility issues, or need care at home.

To book a teleconsultation, patients call up the SLMC hotline and receive a Google Calendar invitation via email that they can access securely over any connected device. Since Google Meet is available as part of Google Workspace, physicians can reduce wait times for consultations by setting up teleconsultations without IT assistance or hardware. Google Meet also provides doctors with more control over their calendar by blocking time for events such as leave and training, to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Apart from teleconsultations, SLMC also uses Google Meet for staff meetings, project meetings, expert lectures, and staff conferences. Since Google Meet supports up to 500 participants for each session, SLMC can easily shift from in-person lessons to remote learning for medical students to support their learning needs.

Enhances data protection with secure file access

Data governance was a key driver for SLMC’s migration to Google Workspace. In recent years, SLMC has been digitizing medical records to provide physicians with faster access to information they need. Leveraging identity management features in Google Drive, SLMC can limit the sharing of sensitive data such as patient records to authorized personnel.

For example, policy requires associates to request permission from data protection officers before sharing files with non-SLMC users. In a busy hospital, compliance to privacy rules can add tedium to already overworked staff. Google Workspace enables SLMC to govern over their data and helps SLMC demonstrate compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and JCI-accreditation policies. The IT and Information Security teams now had an easier way to monitor data flow within the organization, freeing them up to focus more on innovative healthcare solutions.

“With more than 5,000 associates across two hospitals, we need an email and file sharing system that allows us to communicate freely while complying with data requirements,” says Dr. Marcelo. “Although human factors play a major role in data protection, the controlled environment in Google Workspace for employees to communicate and collaborate is a definite plus.”

For implementation, SLMC enlisted the help of Kollab, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, to migrate more than 10 years of archived emails from its legacy mail system without losing any data. Associates readily adopted the new SLMC Gmail system because many already use Gmail for personal use. SLMC administrators can now save time onboarding and offboarding employees on Google Workspace, without the need to install and maintain desktop applications.

Provides real-time collaboration and communication for improved patient experiences

With patients at the heart of SLMC, continuously improving the patient experience to deliver the best service is always a primary focus. When the COVID-19 vaccination program was rolled out in March 2021, SLMC ensured that the registration process was as easy as possible through Google Forms that integrate with Google Sheets, providing a consolidated source for clinicians to track patient data and participation rates. Multiple parties can also access the file without overriding changes from other team members.

“In digital transformations, governance is key to innovation,” says Dr. Marcelo. “With Google Workspace, we hope to firmly set our structures to support our patients and staff while ensuring security to protect data as we expand our digital capabilities.”

About St. Luke’s Medical Center

St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC), which started as a free clinic that provided medical treatment for the underprivileged in 1903, is now one of the leading healthcare institutions in the Philippines. SLMC offers top-of-the-line patient care and promotes healthcare innovation and research through its two facilities, St. Luke’s - Quezon City and Global City, both accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). SLMC also extends assistance to indigent communities through the St. Luke’s Medical Center Foundation.

About Kollab

Established in 2014, Kollab is a premier digital transformation advisor for more than 650 companies across Southeast Asia. Kollab certified professionals collaborate with enterprise customers to achieve transformation through enterprise collaboration, infra + app modernization, hybrid cloud security, and cloud development. Kollab is the first Google Cloud Premier Partner in the Philippines.


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