INTERVIEW

Interview: An Indian scientist’s research on glacial melt in the Arctic could hold lessons for India

Ankit Pramanik studies how meltwater from glaciers reaches the sea.

As part of an innovative project, the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences sent two young PhD scholars to study at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso. They have now been conducting their research there for two and half years. Both of them are glaciologists, although the research focus of one is the Arctic and the other is the Antarctic.

Thethirdpole.net’s first interview is with Ankit Pramanik, whose research focus is on how glaciers melt in the Arctic region, and how that meltwater reaches the sea.

How did you get interested in this programme?
I did my bachelors and masters in Physics. I was interested in doing my PhD in an area which is related to physics. Glaciers, climate and cryosphere research are areas where the backbone is physics and geophysics. I learned of this collaborative programme between India and Norway when an advertisement came out on the website of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. I applied, was called for an interview, and was lucky enough to be accepted for the programme.

Tell us about the topic of your research.
I am doing PhD on glaciers in Svalbard. To be specific, I am working in Kongsfjord area which is close to Ny-Ålesund in North-West Svalbard. Kongsfjord is surrounded by glaciers of different shape and sizes. I am investigating how glaciers interact with different energy fluxes which are responsible for melt and also on how different parts of a glacier gain mass through precipitation. These all are being used to create an energy balance model to understand how much melt water is produced in particular time interval and how much water is added to the fjord. Also my work looks at the mechanism of how melt water is transported through different channels before disappearing into the fjord.

What is the importance of this research?
Glaciers are a source of fresh water. Meltwater from the glaciers ends up into the fjord which contains salt water (sea water). The mixing of fresh water with the sea water of the fjord influences the ecosystem of the fjord – that is where much of the life systems flourish. This information is also of interest to oceanographers who are doing modelling this area to know how much fresh water is mixed in different time of the year.

In general, glaciers are very vulnerable to changing climate. We need to study them to understand the impact of climate change. Apart from sea level rise, they need to be studied to understand the past climate. In the Himalayas many big rivers originate from glaciers and significant percentage of peoples’ life is dependent on these rivers. We also need to study them to understand their impact on hydropower projects, as well as to predict and deal with glacier lake outburst floods.

Does your particular work relate to the Himalayas?
Yes, this study could be applied to glacier research in the Himalayas as well. My present work is to understand the processes that are happening on surface and subsurface of glaciers. Although the climate in Arctic and climate in Himalayas is very different but the basic physics of glaciers is not very different. So, the knowledge (modelling and field work) that I am gaining by working in arctic glaciers would be very useful for research in Himalayas as well.

Has being in Tromso helped you in your research?
Yes, certainly, being in Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø helped me a lot in my research. NPI [Norwegian Polar Institute] is working on glaciers in both Arctic and Antarctic for long time. They have experienced logistic personnel as well as scientists. We need to go through safety and rescue training for the glacier field work. Undertaking this training with experienced personnel made me learn better safety training. Working with the scientists during field work as well as modelling helped me to enrich my knowledge in both the areas of this research which is very important in this field.

What do you see yourself doing in the future, now that 2.5 years of your 3 years is over?
I love my work. I would like to continue working on glaciers in Arctic. I also would like to work on Himalayan glaciers. I want to continue and explore this area of research with further study. If opportunity arises, I would like to contribute on the Indian research on both Arctic and Himalayas in future through my work.

This article first appeared on The Third Pole.

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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.

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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.