“Bitiya Priyanka, Har Har Ganga.” This slogan doing the rounds among some members of the Congress in Varanasi is the first audible sign of the buzz that has kept the party leadership occupied for the last few days. A rumour is gaining strength that the Congress may announce a surprise candidate in Varanasi to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party contender, Narendra Modi. Many suggest that the Congress challenger will be either Priyanka Vadra or Rahul Gandhi.
Publicly though, the top leadership of the Congress is so silent on its candidate for Varanasi that even senior officials seem to be completely clueless about who will be named. “Every day I get several SMSes and calls from senior party leaders and MPs trying to know whether the party would indeed field Priyanaka or Rahul against Modi,” said a general secretary of the Congress on condition of anonymity.
According to party officials, the final decision on the candidate will be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in consultation with Rahul and Priyanka.
At the moment, there are two views in the party. One is that Priyanka should be given a larger role in politics. The other insists that she should not be burdened with extra political work as she is already too occupied managing the elections in Rae Barely and Amethi, constituencies of her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi, respectively.
Yet the buzz is so strong that when Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said on April 4 that Rajiv Gandhi had spoken to him about his daughter’s political aptitude way back in 1990, rumours spread like wild fire about the possibility of Priyanka entering active politics – and emerging as the party’s candidate to take on Modi. Dwivedi denied that his statement had any larger connotations. “As far as I know her [Priyanka’s] interest in politics started at an early age,” he said. “She was keen to understand political developments and the language of politics from the very start. I even have proof of this but I don’t want to discuss it now. All I’ll say is that Rajiv Gandhi told me something about this in 1990. That’s all for the moment.”
In private conversations, several Congress leaders – even those who are not in favour of fielding Priyanka or Rahul against Modi – argue that such a move would be a game-changer in the elections. They contend that such a decision would have a great bearing not just in Varanasi, but on several constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where demoralised Congress cadres would get massively energised. Fielding a Gandhi from Varanasi would increase the Congress’s chances of winning at least seven seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a party leader said. In addition to Varanasi, these seats are Azamgarh, Ghosi, Chail, Mirzapur, Jaunpur and Machhalishahar.
Narendra Modi is also contesting the Vadodara seat in his home state, Gujarat. His Congress opponent there is another general secretary of the party, Madhusudan Mistry. Mistry has publicly expressed the desire for Priyanka to do a "road show" to help his campaign. Yet others in the party feel Priyanka should be saved for the next election, especially as bringing her out as a wild card at the last minute would be an admission of Rahul's inadequacies. Party advisor Sam Pitroda said in an interview with Business Standard that it was Rahul, the party's vice president, who wants Priyanka to step up her role.
There is also speculation that the two main Uttar Pradesh parties, the Bahujan Samaj and Samajwadi Party, could come around to supporting a Congress candidate in the city to make things tough for Modi. But both parties have already declared their candidates.
Congress officials said that the decision on Varanasi is likely to be made public by Tuesday.
Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations
These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.
As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.
A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.
This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance.Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.
The evolving patient
Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.
The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.
Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.
As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.
The promise gap
In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.
So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.
As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.
Striking the balance
Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.
The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”
By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.
Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.
These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.
To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.
This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.