Last weekend, a group of academics, activists and writers issued an open letter to their peers who had agreed to participate in the Jaipur Literary Festival's London event, urging them to boycott the event on May 21 because it had been sponsored by the mining company Vedanta.
The letter highlighted accidents at the mining company's facilities and alleged that there had been irregularities in the manner in which environmental clearances had been obtained. The signatories claimed that "Vedanta's activities are destroying the lives of thousands of people in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Punjab and also in Zambia, South Africa and Australia".
Vedanta has strenuously denied these accusations.
On Sunday, writer Mahesh Rao, author of the acclaimed short story collection One Point Two Billion and the award-winning novel The Smoke Is Rising, wrote a Facebook post putting the boycott call into perspective.
'I sometimes wonder about the efficacy of boycotts. I do essentially think this is a matter of conscience for each festival participant to consider. We all have to ask ourselves frequently a question that in its bluntest form could be expressed as: "How disgusting am I prepared to be?"
Will I court an influential person I detest because he or she might be useful to my career? Will I blurb a book that I’m not keen on as a favour to an agent or publisher? Will I speak at an event sponsored by a financial company that invests in blood diamonds? Will I accept a commission from a firm that is known to treat its employees appallingly? Will I write book reviews for and accept remuneration from a magazine that produces editorials that I consider toxic and divisive? Will I publish with a publishing house whose parent company is an international media conglomerate with a sinister agenda?
Some version of these questions are sometimes asked by all of us, in our position as consumers, producers, employees, citizens.
I think there are two specific things to note in this case:
1. Vedanta, and other similar entities, are directly responsible for a whole raft of exploitative and egregious violations which have been widely publicised.
2. In this case, we have numerous adivasi writers and activists appealing to participants to rethink their participation. They seem to me to be saying very legitimately: "Those of you who claim solidarity with us, show us an example of that solidarity by withdrawing from the festival." I read their appeal as an expression of this question: "Are you saying that a 'safe space' for debate on London’s Southbank is more important to you than a safe space for adivasi communites in the areas in which they live?"
So, in light of these circumstances, the question for each participant is quite straightforward in my view.
“Does my conscience allow me to enjoy Vedanta’s hospitality and participate in an event that it is using to soften its image and to attempt to whitewash the nature of its activities?”
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.