Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: The way Indian governments have used secularism has rendered the word irrelevant

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Secular debate

This is a muddled and fallacious arguments about a subject critically important for India at this stage (“Why I’d be happy if the word ‘secular’ was removed from India’s Constitution”).

The writer dismisses the inclusion of secularism in the Constitution, not on its merits, but because it was done during the Emergency. Having dismissed it on this illogical basis, he proceeds to cite – superfluously – examples of other countries.
That the writer would be “happy if the word ‘secular was removed from India’s Constitution” may not be such an important issue, but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindutva supporters would be overjoyed. – Vir Narain

***

I for one like to see an Indian government that eschews religion completely from its actions. The government should not participate in any public functions pertaining to any religion, even their own, in an official capacity. Religion should not be a field in any government form. – R Venkat

***

The author axes the secular foundation of India by citing foreign contexts as supporting arguments. He uses the liberalism magic-wand to protect individual rights to religion in India. Tomorrow, someone will want to stretch this argument to replace the word “secular” with “Hindu”, forgetting the multi-religious reality of our nation, in keeping with the destructive waves that churn votes out of religious polarisation. When a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution is looked down upon by the majority, liberalism allowing religious freedom is the most misleading argument. – Titus Thangaraj

***

It is irrelevant whether the word “secular” remains in our Constitution. Just as the inclusion was based on political compulsions, any measures initiated, however well meant, will also be tarred with the same brush. The word secular means non-discrimination on grounds of religion and equal rights and status to all citizens. A liberal democracy presupposes that it is secular. The word secular loses all meaning when selectivity or bias creeps into the deeds, actions or utterances of a government, organisation or individual. It’s past its sell-by date.

The word pseudo-secular, disdainfully tossed aside by the author, is not a figment of someone’s imagination. A pseudo-secular is one who wears secularism or liberalism on one sleeve and selective criticism or bias on the other. Unfortunately, such people are not past their sell-by date. – P Raghavendra

Congress days

Does the author of this article realise that he is indirectly accepting that Manmohan Singh was merely doing Sonia Gandhi’s bidding and had hardly any role to play (“A champion of India’s poor: Sonia Gandhi’s most valuable, and least acknowledged, contribution”)? Secondly, introducing a scheme is of hardly any use if the poor follow-through means that the intended beneficiaries remain deprived. – Nivedita Pingle

***

I admired Scroll.in for its fearless and mostly objective even though selective reporting and presentations. But this article gives weight to the allegation that this platform is pro-Congress. It is disappointing.

No political leader so far can claim to have been the champion of the poor in India. To call Sonia a champion of the poor in India is akin to making a sweeping statement.

There have been some pro-poor steps taken from time to time, but the quest for power has diluted each such step. I will think twice before reading an article on Scroll.in now. – Jasmeet Tandon

Historic battle

Mridula Chari’s article was a fascinating read (“Why lakhs of Indians celebrate the British victory over the Maratha Peshwas every New Year”). I had no idea about caste equation during Peshwa rule, but was vaguely aware of the inclusive role of Shivaji. The symbolism of the (predominantly) Mahar army defeating Peshwas’ numerically superior forces must be truly strong for Dalits. The problem is, the way it has been reported is bad history.

The details of the battle are fascinating and anyone who fought on the Company’s side would naturally be proud. The Mahars are perfectly justified in celebrating the battle, specially due to the indignities heaped on them by the Brahminical Peshwas. Military prowess does give rise to self-esteem and pride among oppressed communities.

Today there is a massive onslaught on history by the rabid Right in this country. Pseudo-science and myth making has become the order of the day. Those who fight this cocktail of religious fascism and crony capitalism must be careful not to indulge in myth-making themselves. – Santanu Mukhopadhyay

Currying no favours

As the article suggests, the so-called curry market in the UK is staffed with cheap immigrant labour which has, in the last few decades, helped propel the curry as a British staple (“No more chicken tikka masala? Britain’s beloved curry houses are dying out after Brexit”). At the same time, the curry-fication of Indian food in the UK has stripped it of its nuanced identity. Given the immigration crackdown as fallout of Brexit, a bulk of the curries will be served as they are mostly done now – straight from a bottle with a little cream on top. The bottle of spicy sauce will probably be imported from the one or more of UK’s former colonies. It is the mid-level restaurants that are more likely to suffer. Having met a large number of Britons who refer to a biryani as a “curry”, it seems that majority of the patrons probably won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. – Tiksha Kaul

Digital India

India is very weak in the digital field. We need to set up a body to help those who are illiterate or unfamiliar with technology before pushing through digitalisation (“25,800 cases of online banking fraud reported in 2017, IT minister tells Parliament”). The plan needs to be put on hold before the we are ready for it, as socially and in terms of infrastructure. – Dilip Maniar

Medical reform

Change is inevitable and the proposed National Medical Commission Bill has been criticised as well as welcomed as a probable improvement from the previous system (“Bill aiming to reform India’s medical education regulator will also boost privatisation of colleges”). What’s important is that technocrats (medical professionals of standing and with experience in administration of medical education and healthcare) should be nominated for inclusion. Further, the agenda and modalities should be specific to the actual requirements and with realistic projections and outcomes. – ME Yeolekar

***

Medicine is not a vote-generating tool but a science that saves lives. Do not kill it with half-baked knowledge. There is corruptions at every level, the government must deal with that first before altering the healthcare itself. – Srila

Alternative medicine

It is not a sanction to quackery but it is just a helping hand to our country in the field of health (“Bridge course provision in National Medical Commission Bill will ‘sanction quackery’, says IMA”). The health sector is increasingly becoming a business. AYUSH practictioners are not quacks. They are knowledgeable doctors who are lacking opportunities. The opposition to this provision of the bill is a case of jealousy and insecurity. – Priya Chauhan

Making music

This is a brilliantly written piece (“The magic of mutual respect: A rare jugalbandi between Siddheshwari Devi and Rasoolan Bai”). Aneesh Pradhan, being a tabla player himself, has lived every moment of the song and used the right words to explain the chemistry between the two singers. – Sivapriya Krishnan

2G verdict

When Jayalalithaa was acquitted, when Salman Khan was acquitted, was there any doubt that Raja and company would not be acquitted (“If there was no 2G scam, why did the Supreme Court cancel 122 spectrum licences in 2012?”)? – Vinaya KL

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.