Awards season

An artist's view of politics: Five Scroll columns by Magsaysay award-winner TM Krishna

The Carnatic singer was given the award for his efforts in democratising art.

Thodur Madabusi Krishna, a classical singer better known by his initials TM, was on Wednesday declared the latest recipient of the prestigious Magsaysay award meant to recognise Asian individuals who have done service to society. The award cited Krishna's choice to "question the politics of art" and the fact that he "devoted himself to democratising the arts as an independent artist, writer, speaker, and activist."

Indeed, Krishna did not just question the parochial elitism of Carnatic music, which tends to be limited to middle- and upper-middle class Brahmins. He decided to actively break down those barriers, working with environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman last year to host the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha, a music and dance festival set on the beach of a village far from the fancy Chennai halls where such events are usually held.

While such a festival cannot, in two years, challenge the mainstream system of Brahmin-dominated music organisations, it can become the threat of an alternative.

The image that best expressed this came in the festival’s last few minutes. As Dasan belted out his last song, the hugely popular dance number, Vandiyile Nellu Varum, the ponytailed Nityanand Jayaraman pranced on to the stretch of sand in front of the stage, spurring a chain reaction. Adults, teenagers and children stood up, moved to the front and joined him.

They danced, many in pairs, and hugged. Among them, framed against the sea under the moonlit night, was the unmistakable profile of the classical musician TM Krishna, wearing a blue shirt and spotless white veshti, folded up so that he too could boogie.

Play

Krishna's efforts to break down barriers has not just been limited to his music. He also happens to be an activist as well as a public intellectual, using his prominence to call for a more inclusive, pluralistic Indian society. This aspect will be familiar to readers of Krishna's column on Scroll.in, called The Thin Edge, which you can read in its entirety here.

In fact, his very first piece for Scroll featured a call for more pluralism.

You know what has been agitating the minds of millions of us, Indians – the future of our pluralism. You have stated your position in terms of sabka sath, sabka vikas. And this is quoted and cited on your behalf repeatedly as a mantra. But, Pradhan Mantriji, this is certainly not adequate. We need to hear you, our prime minister, directly and clearly and with an urgent reference to the context of the present situation, which is nothing less than a tragedy. Over the last few months we have had more than one tragedy. Can we really not see the connections between the so-called stray incidences all over the country, from the murders of Dabholkar Pansare and Kalburgi to that of Mohammad Akhlaq. Your direct voice needs to be heard now.

In another recent piece, Krishna insisted that the Indian state and its people need to work harder to understand empathy, and be tolerant of diverse visions of this nation – including those who question the very idea of India.

Politicians in Parliament and outside always proclaim that Kashmir is an integral part of India. What do they mean? That the land that lies within the squiggled political line belongs to us? What about the people, whom do they belong to, you, them, us or nobody? They are people with diverse tones and in disagreement amongst themselves, but they are all Kashmiris. We proclaim that we are a nation of diversity, then let us accept that within the voices there will be some who even question the idea of the nation. This too is a voice and we have to listen to it because democracy is a spirit not a constitutional condition.

As BR Ambedkar has slowly come in vogue, even among those whose ideological forefathers did much worse than dismiss the Dalit leader and founding father, Krishna suggested that even devout Hindus need to embrace his philosophy.

There have to be many Ambedkars and even a pious Hindu Ambedkarite is a possibility. I have to be careful here! Am I converting Ambedkar into a Hindu philosopher? Another appropriation? Certainly not, but the honesty of his enquiry, strength of conviction and tenacity to stand up against the powerful force me out of my comfort zone, bringing me face-to-face with who I am – including my faith and philosophy. I may choose to embrace Ambedkar and Rama, and allow myself solace in this contradiction!

And nationalism too has come in for criticism from Krishna's pen. He pointed out earlier in the year that we may love our land, but that is not the same as embracing the nation state.

I belong to this land because of the air, fragrance, earth, sounds, languages, music, dance, drama, rituals, cuisine, unsaid words, smiles, quirks, jokes, habits, battles, inequalities and sharing that make me who and what I am. All this exists beyond the state. This is my land, my people and my life. My “here” is not bound by the homogenising tag that makes for an Indian citizen – whether of the ordinary native, or OCI or NRI variety. My land is fluid not static, constantly self-renewing, self-defining, leaving me free to sing any song. There is no question that the state has facilitated my living, but the state itself comes from the experiences that I have described above and therefore it cannot take away who I am. The state is not a privilege gifted to us, it is built on the understanding, questioning and framing of what already exists. If the state forgets its reason for existence then it needs to be, and will be, challenged.

Not everything, for Krishna, though has been about questioning the role of the state. Last year as intolerance became the buzzword and hundreds of eminent individuals began returning their awards, he pointed out that they have plenty to answer for.

The victors in this collective degeneration have been the extreme elements and the far right. The truth is that apart from the media and those in the social sector, who have been tirelessly sounding warnings, the rest of us have been silent. So today we cannot divorce our inaction and passivity from the atmosphere that surrounds us. Did we need to wait for the death of people to speak up in an unequivocal voice? Engaging with the society cannot be a reactionary process, it has to be observational and constant. We have to remain sensitive and proactive even in the most peaceful of times.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

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 cards to help 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.