Read To Win

Five new books to read in January (and set the tone for the new year)

A novel, a work of reportage, a book on language, a collection of poetry, and a translation.

Apparently the days of spontaneous reading have long been left behind. Even that pure act of pleasure, immersing yourself in a book, needs to be planned. Especially since, like every year, 2018 too will see a huge number of books we can’t wait to get our hands on. To begin with, here are our picks for five in January.

Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World, Snigdha Poonam

Snigdha Poonam has been writing as a journalist about a rapidly-changing India, particularly its small town residents, for years – a delicious combination of rigorous reporting, an eye for unusual details and good old-fashioned flair for crafting a good story. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Guardian and Granta and with her debut book coming out in January, readers can expect a large dollop of her compelling storytelling.

Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World attempts to offer unique insights into the mind of India’s Generation Y through the stories of six young people and their ambitions, frustrations and hopes in small towns and villages across India. With more than half the country’s population below 25 years, this is a generation that is more connected and determined than ever before, regardless of whether the spaces they inhabit are prepared for the scale of change they’re envisioning. I’m expecting vivid characters, surprising details and a re-framing of what we assume to know about the Indian millennial.

Clouds, Chandrahas Choudhury

Chandrahas Choudhury’s first novel Arzee the Dwarf was about a three-and-a-half foot tall protagonist who dreams of becoming the head projectionist at one of Mumbai’s most iconic cinemas, overcoming his shortness by finally looking down at the world from the projection room. As life continues to pan out in a manner that’s not of his choosing, Arzee begins to discover the secrets and problems faced by the rest of the colourful cast of characters in the novel. In the process, we get one of the most unusual lead characters in recent Indian fiction and a dark but warm, richly-told story of life in the throbbing metropolis. The novel was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Prize in 2010 and had us waiting for what comes next from Chandrahas Choudhury.

With that second novel, Clouds, finally coming out in January, all the ingredients seem to be in place for yet another fascinating tale. The city of Mumbai returns, brought to us this time through Farhad Billimoria, a 42-year-old Parsi psychotherapist who is ready to bid goodbye to Mumbai and is taking a final nostalgic trip through the city in his old Maruti 800. A second protagonist appears in the form of Rabi, part of a sky-watching tribe from Odisha, who has become a caretaker to two old Odia Brahmins who have little sympathy for the plight of the Cloud people. Intriguing characters, a city uniquely brought to life and a story mingled with politics about “earth and sky, love and friendship, language and power”. Sign me up. And if you need more convincing, there’s this oddly delightful excerpt from the book featuring our prime minister delivering a rather ominous speech.

A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age, Emily J Favilla

Has social media killed the period? Does using “whom” make you a linguistic fuddy-duddy? Should it be “damnit” instead of “dammit”? Does it even matter how you spell it? Written by the former copy chief at Buzzfeed, A World Without “Whom” sounds like the perfect book for language geeks everywhere to begin their new year.

When faced with the daunting task of creating the style guide for Buzfeed, Emily Favilla decided to embrace the evolving language of the social media-friendly digital age. Rules change, as does language, she argues, saying “It’s funny to me how everything else in our world evolves – technology, the food we eat, our fashion – but for whatever reason, language is this one thing that people are such sticklers about.” With social media clearly split between the “sticklers” and those who have dived whole-heartedly into “internet speak”, the book promises wry and irreverent takes on capitalisation, numbering, the myriads of online acronyms and reinforces the fluidity of language. Although it will probably be particularly captivating for writers, editors and digital journalists (complete with thumping agreement or aghast gasps), anybody who loves language should give it a read IMHO.

Jonahwhale, Ranjit Hoskote

Art critic, cultural theorist, curator and translator, Ranjit Hoskote wears many hats but above all, he’s a poet. Hoskote has published several collections of poems that he has either written or translated (such as those of the 14th century Kashmiri mystic, Lal Ded) and is one of the most celebrated contemporary Indian poets writing in English, following in the tradition of Bombay poets like Dom Moraes. “Mine is a hybrid practice. It is a collage of practices – writing, curating, editing, art-making, listening, and other forms of cultural production – in which poetry is a thrumming, compelling, insistent, incessant centrality.” he says.

His latest collection of poems, titled Jonahwhale, is largely aquatic in theme, drawing from the stories of Jonah, the biblical prophet who spends three days in the belly of a giant fish, and Moby Dick. The ocean, the Ganga, Marine Drive all make an appearance, shifting in the meaning they hold and the themes they convey. Poetry is often tricky territory for me to navigate, but 2018 feels like a good year to dive in and Hoskote’s newest offering might be the ideal place to test the waters.

Chinatown Days, Rita Chowdhury

A searing tale about the horrors faced by Chinese labourers who were brought to work in the tea gardens of Assam and Bengal and the tragic consequences of the India-China war of 1962, Chinatown Days is a story that needed to be told. Written by Sahitya Akademi-winning Assamese author Rita Chowdhury, the book is the much-awaited English translation of her original Assamese novel Makam, published in 2010 – a sprawling work of historical fiction spanning over 600 pages.

Tracing the origins of indentured labourers who were smuggled from China by the British in the early nineteenth century, the book follows Mei Lin, a descendant of one of those Chinese slaves brought over generations ago. Her idyllic life is torn apart in 1962 as war breaks out between India and China and Lin finds herself suddenly becoming the enemy in the country that is her home. Poignant and evocative, Chinatown Days throws light on the persecution of a community that is rarely spoken about.

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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.