J Jayalalithaa is set to return as Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister. The Karnataka High Court overturned a trial court verdict and acquitted Jayalalithaa of all charges of amassing wealth disproportionate to her income during her first term as chief minister. The acquittal means that her disqualification as an MLA after the trial court conviction is lifted and she can hold public office again immediately. High Court Judge Kumaraswamy was brief and only said "appeal upheld", according to news reports and lawyers present in the court.
Amma's supporters who thronged her house and the AIADMK office since early this morning broke out in celebration, ecstatic that their leader will return to run the state.
On September 27, 2014, a trial court convicted the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in what has come to be known as the Disproportionate Assets case. The trial court had sentenced the former chief minister and three others to four years imprisonment, while imposing a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jayalalithaa, and Rs 10 crore each on the other three.
The case goes back to 1996 and a private complaint filed by Subramanian Swamy in a Chennai court. Jayalalithaa was charged with accumulating assets disproportionate to her incomes in her tenure as Chief Minister between 1991 and 1996. Raids conducted at her lavish Poes Garden residence unearthed 800 kg silver, 28 kg gold, 750 pairs of shoes, 10,500 sarees, 91 watches and other valuables, all totalling Rs 66.65 crore. After a location change to Bangalore in 2003 and many adjournments and postponements over 18 years, the trial court finally delivered its verdict last September. Judge Michael D’Cinha found that Jayalalithaa has amassed wealth up to Rs 55 crore during her first term as Chief Minister while her worth till 1987 was only about Rs. 8.5 lakh.
Since her conviction and after spending a few days in Bangalore Central Jail, Jayalalithaa has stayed in in her Chennai house without making any public appearances. Her right-hand man O Panneerselvam took over as Chief Minister immediately after the trial court verdict in September. Panneerselvam has made it clear that he is a seat filler for his party leader and doesn't have the temerity to either sit in her office or take any decisions to run the state.
Jayalalithaa’s political journey
Sixty-seven year old Jayalalithaa started working in films when she was just 15 with her first release in 1961. A popular silver screen figure in the 60s and 70s, she entered the political arena in 1982 when she joined AIADMK founded by her co-star and mentor MG Ramachandran. A year later she was made the Propaganda Secretary of the AIADMK in January 1983. Jayalalithaa was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1984 and kept the seat till 1989. After MGR fell in 1984, Jayalalithaa became the face of the AIADMK and after his death in 1987, the sole and supreme leader of the party.
The AIADMK won a landslide victory in the Tamil Nadu elections of 1991. Jayalalithaa contested from Kangeyam and Bargur and won both the seats. However, rival party DMK trounced Jayalalithaa and her party five years later. Jayalalithaa made come backs as chief minister twice since then, in 2001 and in 2011.
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.