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The Daily Fix: India should be bothered by modern-day slavery – not those who document it

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The Big Story: Wool over eyes

For once, the government appears to be concerned with a genuine problem that affects millions of the most impoverished people in India. Except, typically, it views them as a public relations problem, not a source of shame for a country that remains deeply poor. The Indian Express revealed earlier this week that the Intelligence Bureau had prepared a secret note claiming that global documentation on slavery is “increasingly targeting India”, contending that the country is home to the highest number of slaves. The note recommends a campaign to discredit the information, using counter statistics and diplomatic channels.

Slavery here refers to people forced into human trafficking, bonded labour, child labour and other coercive work practices that affect vulnerable populations. Over the years, statistics have suggested that India is home to the world’s largest number of slaves, numbering in the millions. The Intelligence Bureau report, according to the Express, says European corporations are using the International Labour Organisation survey, conduced with the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, “to fund NGOs to focus on alleged ‘slavery’ in South India’s textile industry (40% of India’s textile exports)”.

It recommends a three-pronged strategy: counter the advocacy with a different number, discredit the International Labour Organisation-Walk Free Foundation estimate with a rejoinder from the Indian Statistical Institute and use diplomacy to force the International Labour Organisation to dissociate itself from the Walk Free Foundation. Sure enough, on Friday, The Hindu reported that the government has written to the International Labour Organisation challenging its recent study on slavery in India.

This effort is of a piece with other moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which picked battles with Non Governmental Organisations as soon as it came to power in 2014. Then too it used a questionable Intelligence Bureau report that suggested that protests organised by foreign-funded NGOs like Greenpeace were cutting India’s Gross Domestic Product down by a whopping 2%-3%.

Over its three-year tenure, the government has constantly scrutinised NGOs, sometimes through credible means like auditing their finances, but most often by alleging that they are all part of a global conspiracy to discredit India. In this case, it could not go after the United Nations-backed International Labour Organisation, so it has focused on the Walk Free Foundation. The irony here in particular is that this edition of the International Labour Organisation-Walk Free Foundation report, released in September, did not even name India, though the Intelligence Bureau assumes that India has a major chunk of the global estimate of 40 million modern-day slaves.

Since when did India’s Intelligence Bureau become its public relations agency? While it may be credible for the bureau to point out a potential dent to India’s image in upcoming reports and activism, its reported counter campaign is ludicrous. Most crucially, the three-pronged plan appears to miss what might be one rather useful response: actually working to reduce the number of people forced into labour or trafficked in the country. If anything, the Indian government should use opportunities like this to point out all it has done in attempting to eradicate this tragic phenomenon, and encourage organisations that study it to help be part of the process. Instead, if it sticks to the Intelligence Bureau’s response, it only confirms the criticism of those in the Modi government: Event managers, rather than implementers.

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  1. Writing in the Indian Express, Himanshu contests the suggestion that demonetisation improved rural wages, showing instead that the note ban halted the recovery that had begun after the 2016 monsoon.
  2. TP Sreenivasan, in the Hindu, calls for a new architecture to be devised to involve states in foreign affairs, giving as an example Kerala’s recent success in reaching out to the emir of Sharjah.
  3. “I was a fervent supporter of the idea of the goods and services tax,” writes Indira Rajarajam in Mint. “I still am. But the manner in which it has been configured has thrown a satanic spanner into the Indian growth story.”


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Six months ago, the children and I were on a road trip and I downloaded a few podcasts for the way. I picked three podcasts that seemed promising – a science-themed one called Brains On, a history-based one called The Past and The Curious and one called The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. It was perfect, because podcasts engage a child’s imagination just like reading stories to them – children have to listen carefully to every word spoken and create the image in their heads. The road trip was the most peaceful one any one of us has ever had.”

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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 marketing team and not by the editorial staff.