Childhood, for those who are on the other side, is less about what happened in a real time and place. It is that place where we all need to go whenever the burden of the years weighs upon our soul. You would think that television is the last place to find that secret key, but revisiting Malgudi Days could change that attitude.
Think of a spot of sunshine that a nine-year-old tries to hold in his fist. Making paper boats and chasing them down the stream, and praying for the hapless ant that sinks along with the boat when a twig crashes into it. Bunking school and getting even with oppressive teachers and neighbourhood bullies. Friendships forged over lime pickle and schemes to get that plaything you desperately want. Think of an adult world that is of little use to you, other than your grandparents, who are the only ones who have the time and stories just for you.
Kannada film and theatre stalwart Shankar Nag’s 1987 adaptation of RK Narayan’s short story collection is perhaps the finest television shows ever. Set in the fictional hill town of Malgudi, the 1986 series featured the nation’s favourite child, Swami (Manjunath), and his rag tag friends who roamed the streets and alleys of the town playing cricket, chasing dreams, myths and gossip. In other words, everything that boys are wont to do.
Malgudi Days was set in pre-Independence India. Boys in billowy and calf-length pants, dhotis, caps and jackets ran amok; missionary schools forced religion down the throats of impressionable kids; Indians were still divided between those who saw merit in the British way of order and discipline and the anarchy seeded by the nationalist leaders. The sight of a handsome young Girish Karnad playing tennis at the elite Malgudi Club in his dhoti or signing off a stern letter to the Albert Mission headmaster with a “Your most obedient servant” is one such telling commentary on that era. Ultimately, it’s the endless adventure of the boys that make this show so timeless.
Given a chance, we would all love to play with ghosts and capture tyrannical kings on horses, start our own cricket teams and believe that copper coins can turn to silver overnight.
Other than the compelling content, what makes a trip to Malgudi Days worth every minute are the real locations and lovely cinematography. Nag did not clip his vision and the audacity of his imagination for the small screen. The series was shot in a village in Karnataka’s Shimoga district. The camera glides over rivers, pulls back to show boys skinny dipping, dances with dew drops and melts in the mist.
And then there was the poignant theme music by L Vaidyanathan, comparable to the score of Pather Panchali by Ravi Shankar: simple, evocative, hummable and a classic. (The score in some of the episodes was by Sharang Dev.)
The abiding visual in the series is of Swami running around Malgudi barefoot. There is something about the way he skips over pebbly paths and mossy patches, wades through streams and bowls out his team mates that makes us want to yank off our shoes and, like Narayan’s endearing protagonist, run away from everything that holds us back, towards all that we wish to be.
Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations
These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.
As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.
A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.
This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance.Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.
The evolving patient
Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.
The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.
Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.
As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.
The promise gap
In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.
So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.
As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.
Striking the balance
Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.
The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”
By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.
Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.
These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott 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.