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Film review: ‘Irada’ is a well-intended expose of pollution and graft

A superb cast and some smart writing paper over the flaws in Aparnaa Singh’s debut movie.

Debutant director Aparnaa Singh’s Irada deftly mixes fiction and fantasy. The plot is said to have been drawn from real events – the pollution of ground water by a chemical manufacturer with the blessings of a state’s ruling party. The fictional response to these events, however, hews closer to Hollywood films about righteous citizens turning detectives and vigilantes against powerful corporations, among them Erin Brockovich, A Class Action and Edge of Darkness.

Set in Punjab, Irada advocates solutions that ordinary viewers will be hard-pressed to replicate, but its concerns are timely, its character sketches memorable, and its empathy unmistakable.

Topping the sparkling cast is Naseeruddin Shah in one of his most relaxed recent performances. Shah plays Parabjeet, a decorated retired soldier who wants his daughter to become a fighter pilot. Parabjeet puts Riya (Rumana Molla) through a punishing schedule of morning runs and long swims, but tragedy strikes in the form of a cancer diagnosis. The water that Riya has been gulping day after day is killing her, and her repentant father sets out to investigate.

Play
Irada.

Parabjeet eventually runs into Arjun (Arshad Warsi), a National Investigation Agency officer who has arrived in town to investigate a massive blast that has destroyed the polluting chemical factory run by the malevolent Paddy (Sharad Kelkar). Paddy and the state’s chief minister Ramandeep (Divya Dutta) are twinned by rapacity. One flushes out his factory’s toxins into the ground water, while the other ignores the problem in return for political funds. An activist who tried to blow the whistle has been killed, and his girlfriend Maya (Sagarika Ghatge) is getting nowhere with her campaign to expose Paddy.

The blast at Paddy’s plant holds out the promise of a promotion and a possible stint at the Prime Minister’s Office for Arjun. All he has to do is follow Ramandeep’s tart orders – file a report that exonerates Paddy and hang the blame on an employee who has killed himself. Arjun’s curiosity eventually leads him to Parabjeet, and a friendship develops between the two men.

Singh’s fondness for her characters cuts both ways. Irada is an old-fashioned conspiracy thriller in which the righteous are justified in their actions, however unlawful they may be, and the evildoers are just the right shade of black. Sharad Kelkar is perfectly cast as the dapper businessman whose empire is built on corpses, while Divya Dutta is a doozy as the imperious head of state whose wickedness is more far-reaching than Paddy’s corruption.

Warsi turns out a charming and relaxed performance even when Arjun is up to no good. As the 109-minute narrative wears on and the need to add contrivances to reach for an uplifting solution to depressingly real-world problems kicks in, Arjun’s moral compass starts behaving like Jack Sparrow’s apparatus from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies – it points most to what he wants, rather than what the law permits.

Like Arjun, Singh and co-writer Anushka Rajan dredge up problems that cannot be tackled through official channels. Yet, the director’s conviction bulldozes through the most indulgent and ragged moments. A flashback to a holiday taken by Parabjeet and Riya is little more than an excuse to showcase Rumana Molla’s histrionic talents. Parabjeet’s questionable actions, and the movie’s endorsement of them, also indicate that Singh’s resolve to tackle the economic roots of pollution and its relationship with cancer is weakening. Even though the resolution beggars belief, the high-powered cast and the director’s clear-eyed rage against the machine are convincing enough.

Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
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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.