In the news: SC asks search engines to block sex determination ads; stent price crackdown and more

A wrap of the health news over the past week.

Sex determination laws versus free speech

The Supreme Court last week asked search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to ban all advertisements for sex determination tests. However, the court also observed that while there should be a restriction on such ads, a general ban on all online content pertaining to sex determination was dangerous and would amount to curtailing a person’s fundamental right to know.

The court was deliberating on a PIL by activist Sabu George seeking a complete ban on all online searches related to pre-natal sex determination on the grounds that such tests are illegal under Indian law. The Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, of 1994 prohibits sale of sex determination kits or their promotion by way of advertisements.

In February, the court had asked search engines like Google and Yahoo to implement mechanisms to identify and block content relating to pre-natal sex determination. The companies had opposed the directive and free speech activists have also pointed out that it could lead to censorship of content on the Internet by private parties.

On Tuesday last week the court free speech consideration against the sex-determination laws. “Prenatal sex determination ads is an offence,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra observed, according to a report in The Hindu. “But a general prohibitory order against all online information pertaining to sex determination is dangerous. We will be curtailing the right to know under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.”

On Thursday, the court heard the matter again and passed and asked the search engines to prohibit advertisements relating to sex-determination tests but did not impose a complete ban on all such searches.

NPPA issues notices to hospitals

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has started issuing notices to hospitals for not complying with its new guidelines on coronary stents. In early February the drug pricing regulator brought stents under price control and capped the price of the devices at Rs 7,260 for bare metal stents and Rs 29,600 for drug-eluting stents. Between February 14 to March 15, the NPPA has found violations of this price cap in as many 40 health institutions.

In a notification on Friday, the NPPA announced that it had issued show cause notices to the managements of hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions to recover the money they made by overcharging cardiac patients for stents. The regulator has also sent pre-prosecution notices under The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to institutions in violation of its February order.

Meanwhile, advocate Birender Sangwan has filed PILs at the Delhi High Court against 18 hospitals in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune for overcharging cardiac stents. Sangwan’s earlier PIL had led to the NPPA slashing of prices of cardiac stents by about 85% in February.

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration had stepped up its vigilance as a part of its larger plan to detect overpricing of stents after the NPPA received complaints about stents being sold at higher prices at KEM Hospital, Lilavati Hospital and a few hospitals in Pune and Nashik.

Indian Medical Association against West Bengal law

The Indian Medical Association has decided to move court questioning the validity of a new law passed by the West Bengal government to regulate clinical establishments. The Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Act, 2017 seeks to address medical negligence by allowing fines on erring doctors and also imprisonment for certain violations. The Indian Medical Association has, however, been protesting what it calls the “criminalisation of doctors”.

The association’s president KK Aggarwal said that the body’s legal cell was looking into the possibility of opposing the unconstitutional provisions of the Act, which include the fines imposed on top of the penalties imposed by the Consumer Protection Act and the exemption of government hospitals from the purview of the Act. Aggarwal said that these provisions are unfair and cannot make for universally acceptable law that seeks to prevent medical negligence.

The association is also planning to hold political protests and observe “National IMA Black Day” on April 27.

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How technology is changing the way Indians work

An extensive survey reveals the forces that are shaping our new workforce 

Shreya Srivastav, 28, a sales professional, logs in from a cafe. After catching up on email, she connects with her colleagues to discuss, exchange notes and crunch numbers coming in from across India and the world. Shreya who works out of the café most of the time, is employed with an MNC and is a ‘remote worker’. At her company headquarters, there are many who defy the stereotype of a big company workforce - the marketing professional who by necessity is a ‘meeting-hopper’ on the office campus or those who have no fixed desks and are often found hobnobbing with their colleagues in the corridors for work. There are also the typical deskbound knowledge workers.

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Smart is the way forward

According to the Future Workforce Study conducted by Dell, three in five working Indians surveyed said that they were likely to quit their job if their work technology did not meet their standards. Everyone knows the frustration caused by slow or broken technology – in fact 41% of the working Indians surveyed identified this as the biggest waste of time at work. A ‘Smart workplace’ translates into fast, efficient and anytime-anywhere access to data, applications and other resources. Technology adoption is thus a major factor in an employee’s choice of place of work.

Openness to new technologies

While young professionals want their companies to get the basics right, they are also open to new technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The Dell study clearly reflects this trend — 93% of Indians surveyed are willing to use Augmented/Virtual Reality at work and 90% say Artificial Intelligence would make their jobs easier. The use of these technologies is no longer just a novelty project at firms. For example, ThysenKrupp, the elevator manufacturer uses VR to help its maintenance technician visualize an elevator repair job before he reaches the site. In India, startups such as vPhrase and Fluid AI are evolving AI solutions in the field of data processing and predictive analysis.

Desire for flexibility 

A majority of Indians surveyed rate freedom to bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc.) to work very highly. This should not be surprising, personal devices are usually highly customized to an individual’s requirements and help increase their productivity. For example, some may prefer a high-performance system while others may prioritize portability over anything else. Half the working Indians surveyed also feel that the flexibility of work location enhances productivity and enables better work-life balance. Work-life balance is fast emerging as one of the top drivers of workplace happiness for employees and initiatives aimed at it are finding their way to the priority list of business leaders.

Maintaining close collaboration 

While flexible working is here to stay, there is great value in collaborating in person in the office. When people work face to face, they can pick up verbal and body language cues, respond to each other better and build connections. Thus, companies are trying to implement technology that boosts seamless collaboration, even when teams are working remotely. Work place collaboration tools like Slack and Trello help employees keep in touch and manage projects from different locations. The usage of Skype has also become common. Companies like Dell are also working on hi-tech tools such as devices which boost connectivity in the most remote locations and responsive videos screens which make people across geographies feel like they are interacting face to face.

Rise of Data Security 

All these trends involve a massive amount of data being stored and exchanged online. With this comes the inevitable anxiety around data security. Apart from more data being online, security threats have also evolved to become sophisticated cyber-attacks which traditional security systems cannot handle. The Dell study shows that about 74% of those surveyed ranked data security measures as their number one priority. This level of concern about data security has made the new Indian workforce very willing to consider new solutions such as biometric authentication and advanced encryption in work systems.

Technology is at the core of change, whether in the context of an enterprise as a whole, the workforce or the individual employee. Dell, in their study of working professionals, identified five distinct personas — the Remote Workers, the On-The-Go Workers, the Desk-centric Workers, the Corridor Warriors and the Specialized Workers.

Dell has developed a range of laptops in the Dell Latitude series to suit each of these personas and match their requirements in terms of ease, speed and power. To know more about the ‘types of professionals’ and how the Dell Latitude laptops serve each, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.