If the government is trying to divide social activists by invoking questions of national honour and sovereignty, its plan is not working very well. In an affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court last Friday, the government praised prominent social activists, including Medha Patkar, Nandini Sundar and Praful Bidwai, for never testifying before a foreign committee. That vote of approval was meant as a takedown of Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai. But Patkar, Sundar and Bidwai told Scroll.in that they object to this differentiation by the home ministry and expressed their support for Pillai.
“The MHA is basically trying to confuse the issue by making an invidious distinction between activists by saying that a majority of them are in principle opposed to appearing before foreign committees, which is not true,” said journalist and activist Bidwai.
Last month, the authorities at New Delhi airport prevented Pillai from boarding her flight to London where she was to testify before a British parliamentary committee about London-based multinational company Essar’s coal mining project in Mahan affecting local tribal people. In the affidavit, the home ministry justified its move of stopping Pillai, arguing that her testimony would have been “prejudicial to national interest”. The government is worried that Pillai’s statement would be included in foreign policy documents by governments that want to “subdue India’s increasing strength on global platforms”.
Obstructions along the way
Sundar, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Delhi, criticised the ministry’s rationale. “With the internet and all, even if you depose before an Indian committee, if it involves something that foreign countries find interesting, they will pick it up,” Sundar said. In this case, even though Pillai had been physically stopped, she appeared before the British committee via Skype.
Moreover, Sundar pointed out, Pillai has every right to bring the activities of a London-based company to the notice of British legislators. “The question here is: why is the Indian government so interested in defending the foreign companies’ right to exploit Indian resources and Indian adivasis” she said. “Are you concerned about your own resources, your own people and your own environment or the profits of foreign companies?”
The affidavit says that Patkar, Sundar and Bidwai along with Aruna Roy, PV Rajagopal and Admiral Ramdas have “relied on all the institutions of India’s vibrant democracy as provided for by the Indian constitution. They have protested through ‘dharnas’, fasts and marches, approached Indian Court at all levels, petitioned the State and Central government and its officials and extensively used the print and electronic media to make their views known. There is no restriction on the petitioner [Pillai] to use the same or similar routes”.
Patkar countered: “Every government has questioned us, stopped us, harassed us, attacked us, arrested us – so how can you say there is no restriction.” Patkar, in fact, appeared before the US Congress in its 1989 hearings on the Sardar Sarovar project, a fact that the home ministry has forgotten or chosen to ignore.
The ministry affidavit goes on to say, in words formatted in bold, that documentation arising from Pillai’s testimony would create a “misleading” depiction on India’s efforts to protect tribal rights especially at a time when the government is inviting foreign investors to India.
Informing the world
If the prime minister and chief ministers can approach international fora to plead for investment in the country then a citizen activist like Pillai had every reason to go to an foreign committee to protect indigenous rights, Patkar argued.
Bidwai took the same stand. “If you want an integrated world, you want investment from the West, and you want the whole world to take notice of your rising power, then the world has every right to demand accountability from you, whether on environmental issues or gross human rights violations as in Gujarat in 2002,” he said.
Two weeks ago, while asking for an affidavit from the government, the Delhi High Court had said that expressing a different point of view from the government does not amount to being anti-national.
In a statement, Pillai said: “We have filed cases in the High Court in Madhya Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal and in the local court in Waidhan. To ensure that Essar does not get away scot-free, I decided to speak to British MPs who are concerned about tribal rights. It is essential for them to hear the facts about Essar, a London registered company, and for them to express their opinion about UK companies violating Indian laws.”
What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience
Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.
At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.
Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.
At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.
Getting the best from collaborations
Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”
Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.
There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.
When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation
Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.
Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.
Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:
Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cardstohelp non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.
As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.
According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.
Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, 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.