Visioning ICTPH and SughaVazhvu Healthcare – A Team exercise anchored by Dave Wallack

By Zeena Johar, President – ICTPH

We at ICTPH and SughaVazhvu, stand together as entities, specializing in the provision of primary healthcare to rural Indian populations. Our approach of being the first touch point for rural Indian populations, called for disruptive innovation in various domains. The alternate human resource approach wherein AYUSH physicians are trained on our standardized protocols to deliver care, coupled by real-time audit of patient-physician interaction has offered a scalable solution across a wider geography. Our Health Management Information Systems (HMIS), wherein, SOAP standardized patient interaction, billing, patient follow-up, supply chain management are all modules functionally deployed across our Rural Micro Health Centre (RMHC) network. Today at three RMHCs, and with our expansion plan to ten RMHCs before the end of this financial year, bring accomplishing yet challenging times as we consolidate all our experiences.

The criticality leading towards this ‘visioning’ exercise arose from two unique organizations – ICTPH and SughaVazhvu coexisting, mission aligned but not necessarily allied when we wanted to define a unique culture. One was primarily research and innovation driven and the second was focused more on operational excellence of managing a rural healthcare venture. For us to successfully achieve our goal of demonstrating a pilot, as a model for national advocacy for primary care delivery, calls for cohesively aligning the two organizations.

The softer skills of work-place culture, ownership by stakeholders across all levels, the inherent sense of urgency are to some extent defined by the vision of senior management in a company. In out attempt to make the process more inclusive, more transparent allowing us to add the required momentum to our growth plans called for a platform which brought us all together.

In our years of association with IFMR Trust, wherein at various junctions they have helped with their guidance and expertise, this was one such joint endeavor. Dave Wallack, Senior Vice President at IFMR Trust and Founding Member, InnerWorlds holds deep expertise in helping organizations define their core principles and methodologies for teams to own-up to the vision. Along with Dave’s team we organized a day long brainstorming session with our teams at ICTPH and SughaVazhvu at the IFMR Trust Office in Chennai.

This session was preceded by Preethi Kannan’s (a key member of Dave’s InnerWorlds team) visit to Thanjavur, wherein she painstaking interviewed all the 13 members scheduled to attend the upcoming ‘visioning’ session in Chennai. The objective of her interviews was to get an unbiased opinion of the team. Thanjavur, as a location acts a natural filter, sieving only those who stand ‘really’ committed to our organizational goals, led to no surprises, when her analysis revealed immense positivity in our teams. Preethi’s qualitative interview insights were instrumental in later defining the structure of the daylong session on October 07, 2011 (Friday) in Chennai.

Qualitative analysis of all employee interviews anchored by Preethi Kannan (InnerWorlds)
in Thanjavur with ICTPH and SughaVazhvu employees

All of the nine ICTPH members participated in this session, and in order to ensure that SughaVazhvu also had an equal representation four members were invited to join the deliberation. Dr. Chitra Ramaswamy – Medical Director, Manimekalai Pichaivel – Pharmacist, Viji Govintharajan – Nursing Officer, Operations, Maniyarasi Veeramani – Nursing Officer, Audit represented SughaVazhvu Healthcare.

ICTPH and SughaVazhvu teams briefed by Dave Wallack at the IFMR Trust, Chennai Office

The day at the IFMR Trust office, wherein we scheduled our visualization session along with Dave’s team unfolded very creatively. In order to break the monotony of the standard presentation format, and ensure equal participation across the board after a short introduction by Dave, saw us working in two groups, one for ICTPH and the other one for SughaVazhvu (some of our ICTPH team members, namely Deepak Rajanna, Aarti Sahasranaman, and Arun Jithendra represented the SughaVazhvu group, as Dave wanted to ensure an equal voice representation). The aim was simple, defining the positive core of our work for the two uniquely placed organizations.

To get us all started, I loved the fact that we were all split in teams of two, and were given a specific format to interview the other person. Now this made each one of us introspect, as to what got us here, and what excites us the most about being a part of what we call a movement, revolutionizing healthcare. The stories were not only moving, but brought together a unique positive core. This is what set the stage for the second session, of group narration and trait consolidation.

Manimekalai Pichaivel (Pharmacist, SughaVazhvu Healthcare) and Dr. Aarti Sahasranaman
(Vice President, Interventions, ICTPH) in a one-on-one interview session

The two groups – ICTPH and SughaVazhvu, after an intensive one-on-one session then collectively defined our organizational unique characteristics, ‘positive core’ as they call it. While innovation, and real time feed-back stood out for ICTPH, standardization and technology application took the lead for SughaVazhvu. Team work and outcome-driven evidence-based research, and disruptive thinking in interventions, technology and operations stood out for ICTPH. So did the inspirational mentoring of Dr. Nachiket Mor, sparking confidence to think out-of-the-box. SughaVazhvu on the other hand immensely treasured their technologically enabled rural presence, which empowered them as a trusted healthcare provider.

Defining the positive core at ICTPH – Group-A deliberating and consolidating their thoughts

‘Amplification as a strategy towards success’ – In Dave’s introductory session, he emphasized the significance of visualization, and creating a positive core that defines an organization. Only later when he delved further, did I appreciate his perspective. For an organization to succeed it is important for the management to carefully evaluate drivers that ‘work’ in an organization, defining our unique selling point. Through a simple process that amplifies / leverages things which really work, one can strive to maximize the output as an organization. Only then the trivial, the peripheral, things that don’t work, won’t matter anymore. This is critical as often managements focus on the peripherals, losing out on their vision and soon the chaos and internal friction begin to impact output.

Appreciative inquiry as a methodology follows the 5-‘D’ pathway. Define – the positivity of an organization; Discover – the root cause of success, emerging from concrete experience verses opinion and theory; Dream – the power of visualization, elucidating the boundaries of success; Design – proactive approaches to achieve set goals and targets; Destiny – deploy tactical approaches to actualize propositions involving critical decision makers.

Given the limitation of only a day long brainstorming session we focused only on the first three aspects of appreciative inquiry – define, discover and dream. Through the process we identified the strengths of both our organizations – ICTPH and SughaVazhvu, and moving forward outlined tangible mission statements.

Inspirational leadership, primarily Dr. Nachiket Mor’s vision, truly sparked unmatched commitment across the board. For SughaVazhvu, what uniquely defined their ‘positive core’ was a trusted relationship with the community, the capability of receiving community feedback which then is imbibed in their existence. Our HMIS technologically enabling patient management at SughaVazhvu was clearly the most appreciated differentiator across the board. For ICTPH, our out-of-the-box thinking coupled with evidence based research was a clear identifier. Careful yet prompt deployment of co-developed interventions, with mechanisms allowing real-time feedback clearly set-apart an ICTPH researcher from the rest of public health research community.

As we move forward with our expansion plans, a careful understanding of what it takes to motivate all hands that join our movement is critical. A clearly defined mission, and individuals in our organization aligned towards a common goal will define success both at ICTPH and SughaVazhvu. The day long deliberation with Dave’s team, helped us concretize the otherwise assumed core of our existence. As we move along, we plan to work closely with Dave’s team, through elaborate sessions, ensuring united progress along way.

Both ICTPH and SughaVazhvu stand truly indebted to Dave, Vijayalakshmi and Preethi for all their time, effort and energy. Their enthusiastic guidance and participation indeed concluded the day, giving our teams a better sense of ownership, as we all saw with much clarity our dream of today as the reality for tomorrow!

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