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Welcome to the PRiyaCOMM blog. This blog explores global and communications issues through a virtual think tank to aid in understanding some of the most critical issues affecting our peoples and profession. The collection of articles and other materials provide valuable insights by experts in various fields into critical issues including poverty, education, the environment, culture, health and human rights, and communications issues including social media, ethics, emerging communications trends, research and measurement.

 

Green Our Minds, Protect Our Planet!

Earth Day is on April 22, and the human footprint on the Earth has never been so heavy. Since the 1960s, the world population has doubled to 6.8 billion, and continues to expand by more than 200,000 people each day. With more than one billion teenagers in the world today just reaching their most fertile years, the UN has projected that the world population will reach almost 9 billion by the year 2050.

The devastating corollaries are evident everywhere we look. A glance at the condition of the Earth in 2010 reveals that 90 percent of all large fish in the seas have already been scoured by industrial fishing; “fertile soil is being lost faster (through overuse and misuse) than it can be replenished… with more than 80 percent of the world’s farming land moderately or severely eroded”; 64 percent of our water is being used for agriculture, while more than one billion people across the world have no access to safe drinking water; the intensification of greenhouse gases emissions into the atmosphere has escalated over the last decade; our rainforests are disappearing at the rate of one-and-a-half acres per second destroying 50,000 species of plant, animal and insect every year, and taking with them potential cures for life-threatening diseases!

There is an old Cree Indian proverb that says, “Only when the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” Our insatiable demands and shortsighted greed have shoved the Earth’s resources and its ability to comfortably sustain us to the verge of collapse!

The destruction of our biodiversity and the changes in our climate – this present grave state of our planet – are all consequences of human behavioral problems. We are inundated with an abundance of information and statistics on the state of our planet – we know the facts – but yet the problem continues to accelerate. Certainly, we need the strategies, regulations and legislation from our governments to alleviate the crisis, but this environmental quandary was spawned by human actions, and can only be assuaged through human actions.

We are faced with numerous choices within each of our landscapes daily. The ecological problem cannot be resolved unless each of us voluntarily pledges to look at our current lifestyles, realize how our current actions are contributing to the destruction of the Earth and its peoples, recognize that every part of our existence is connected to the Earth, change our perspective, change our attitude, and, most importantly, change our ACTIONS!

Through our project, “The Green Brain Initiative,” PRiyaCOMM has begun to collaborate with various stakeholders within our communities to enter into research and dialogues to find common ground on the social and behavioral changes needed, and to develop and implement appropriate innovative programs, to reduce the threats to biodiversity and to transform the environments around us into cleaner, healthier, more efficient and sustainable ones.

If you or your organization would like to be a part of this initiative, or have ideas that you would like to share with us, please contact us at ksaroop@priyacomm.com.


Doc, Please Listen to Me!

Recently, I had cause to visit a specialist physician in my medical group for the first time. After waiting for an hour and a half, at last I saw the physician. When he finally came, without my file or anything to write on, he rushed through my diagnosis and quickly ordered three expensive tests in less than five minutes! Recognizing that most of the vital diagnostic information surfaces during the consultation stage, and the number of times that the physician impatiently interrupted my explanation of my symptoms, I left his office feeling disturbed and anxious about the possibility of a misdiagnosis.

Undoubtedly, effective communication between a patient and his doctor, whether in a private medical office or a hospital setting, has always been a principal clinical function, but the patient-physician communication dilemma has existed for decades now. In 1979, it was reported that “54% of patient complaints and 45% of patient concerns (were) not elicited by physicians.” In 1984, researchers noted that “patients were interrupted by physicians on average within 18 seconds after they began describing their presenting problems!” This resulted in the patients’ failure to disclose “other significant concerns.” In 1988, the studies went so far as to note that “psychosocial and psychiatric problems are common in general medical practice, but these diagnoses are missed in up to 50% of cases.”

In order to produce comparative hospital care data for consumers, promote transparency in the level of care provided by hospitals and encourage these institutions to increase the quality of care they provide to the public, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey. It is “the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care” in the US. Since 2008, the CMS has publicly reported on “critical aspects of patients’ perspectives of hospital experiences” in 10 areas including “communication with doctors.”

In the latest statistics on patients’ responses to “doctors always communicated well” collected from 168 hospitals in New York between April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, only 20% of the hospitals recorded a score equal to or greater than the national average, while 61% of the hospitals recorded a score equal to or greater than the state average. Of the 50 states, 45 scored higher than New York State in the category of “doctors always communicated well.” More precisely, New York State tied with 4 other states to claim the second-to-last position in this category!

So, why should those in the medical profession be especially concerned about these scores? Well, the New York State Department of Health reported, “New York State has among the highest medical malpractice premium rates in the nation and led the country in the number of medical malpractice claims filed with the National Practitioner Data Bank for the decade ending in 2009.”

Further studies have shown that the source of the majority of malpractice allegations is unsatisfactory patient-physician communication. Patients complained that “physicians would not listen, would not talk openly, attempted to mislead them, or did not warn them of long-term neuro-developmental problems (in the case of newborn injury).” They also felt that “doctors deserted patients or were otherwise unavailable, devalued patient or family views, delivered information poorly, or failed to understand the patient’s perspective.”

Undoubtedly, effective patient-physician communication is imperative in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, which will inevitably lead to reduced health care costs, better health care outcomes, and more trusting relationships between patients and physicians.

As health care institutions and systems continually move closer and closer to patient-centered models of care, medical professionals must also evolve and break free from disease-centered and physician-centered approaches to communication with patients and their families.

Even the unparalleled but acerbic Dr. Gregory House, who abhors his patients, has no choice, in almost every instance, but to spend time with, listen to and observe his patients before he can finally arrive at the correct diagnosis!


The Power of a Networked People: Tunisia

What an eventful start to this new year and decade! With less than a month and a half behind us, the world has already witnessed the power and determination of the people as they fought to reclaim their freedom from the injustices and tyrannical rule of Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. While the revolutions were transpiring on the streets, the social media network was buzzing with activity keeping fellow protesters and the international community abreast of what was happening on the ground.

The BBC noted that “more than 34% of Tunisia’s 10 million people are online” and “nearly two million people, or more than 18% of the population, use Facebook,” but Reporters Without Borders stated that the country has a “very effective system of censoring” the web as “the regime has become almost obsessive about control of news and information.” Despite these state-imposed restrictions, and with cell phone usage estimated at 95%, Twitter was used as a key tool by protesters primarily to communicate logistics like locations of snipers and organized protests, and to appeal for blood donations during Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, in the process saving lives. Messages like “Lyon Street (Tunis) police snipers killing citizens in Tunis,” and “UGTT confirms: General strike in Tunis, and demonstration at 11 am!” provide examples of this.

Even with the Tunisian protests now being referred to as Twitter Revolution, analysts point out that the revolution in Tunisia was not sparked by social media, rather it took the self-immolation of an unemployed street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who was prohibited from selling his produce on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, for this Arab nation to rise up and revolt against 24 years of authoritarian rule.

However, the significance of the use of Twitter and other social media in strengthening the revolution is indubitable. Tens of thousands of Tunisians transcended state-imposed censorship and restrictions, and communicated with each other through an uninhibited flow of information, which amplified their potential to engage in collective action, and acted as citizen journalists by getting messages, photos and videos to the international community and media for re-broadcast – in the process creating, living and documenting their own history as it happened!

Nasser Weddady, Director at the American Islamic Congress in Boston, noted that, for 23 years, the international media paid very little attention to Tunisia. He stated, “You might never have heard about (the revolt in Tunisia) if it wasn’t for the folks on Twitter, who were basically engaging in massive information warfare. At the time when the Tunisian dictator fled, there were six tweets on Tunisia every second.”

Dr. Noureddine Miladii, Senior Lecturer in Media and Sociology at the University of Northampton (UK) and Editor of the Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research, said, “Mobile phones, blogs, YouTube, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds (were) instrumental in mediating the live coverage of protests and speeches, as well as police brutality in dispersing demonstrations. The internet in this case… assumed the role of a very effective uncensored news agency from which every broadcaster and news corporation (were) able to freely source news feeds, raw from the scene.”

Dr. Miladi noted, “Al Jazeera heavily relied on referencing Facebook pages and Youtube in reporting the raw events, which marked a key turning point in unveiling the bloodiness and horror of the manner with which the police had been dealing with the riots. No wonder that Tunisians flocked to the social media networks, which fed and fuelled news stations like Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic, France 24, Al-Hiwar and other channels.”

Simple, ordinary people transforming societies! The power of a networked people poses both a significant opportunity for the oppressed and a threat to, especially authoritarian, hierarchical organizations. In this case, a participatory democracy, facilitated through the use of social media within the communications landscape, carried the voices of the Tunisian people across the world, and united a people to liberate themselves from the bonds of political tyranny.


Turnover in a Volatile Economy

Micaela works as a front-desk manager at a luxury hotel in Manhattan. She loves the hospitality industry, but is very unhappy in her present job. She explains, “My company wants us to provide the highest quality of service to our guests, but treats us (the employees) with disdain and disrespect. The environment does not motivate us or inspire us to perform our best. I wish I could leave, but I’ve already invested over a decade of my life in this company, and with the economy the way it is right now, there aren’t many alternatives available right now.”

Kadia became a registered nurse because she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. She works for a relatively large hospital outside of New York city, which boasts of employee satisfaction as a crucial element in the success of the hospital. Kadia disagrees, “A culture of fear reigns here. When I first started working here, I was told that employees are valued and recognized for their contributions, and that an open-door policy existed with no repercussions to employees to ensure the well-being of all employees. I quickly realized that none of this was true. When management communicates with us, the message essentially threatens us ‘to do better or else!’ Each day, I enter my workplace with the gnawing fear of being judged, penalized or fired. This place is unhealthy for employees. I have already decided to leave as soon as the economy picks up.”

I asked Micaela, Kadia and several of my other friends, “Has your employer ever asked, ‘Are you happy with your job? How can we make your job more satisfying?’”

The responses oscillated between yes and no, but one common thread ran through all the responses. “We don’t trust our employers to tell them the truth. Most don’t care to hear the truth anyway… They become very defensive and focused on trying to convince us that the company’s approach is right, and we should conform or bear the consequences. So, we agree with them and say what they want to hear to safeguard our jobs and avoid being ostracized… until we can find something better.”

The voluntary turnover rates across industries echo these voices of discontent in the workplace.

In 2007, CompData Surveys recorded voluntary turnover rates in several industries including hospitality, technology and health care industries of 21.3%, 10.6% and 15.5%, respectively.

In 2008, the company revealed an increase in the voluntary turnover rates in each of these industries. 27.2% of employees chose to separate from their employers in the hospitality industry. The technology industry recorded a 17.2% rate, while the health care sector logged a rate of 15.7%.

In 2009, the company’s survey findings revealed a decline in voluntary turnover rates in these industries with a significant 19% in the hospitality industry, and 13% in the health care industry.

While the voluntary turnover rates indeed declined in 2009, the onus is now on employers to do an honest assessment of their companies and ascertain whether these lower rates can be linked to a robust employee relations system already in place, or whether these rates are, in fact, a temporary corollary of a volatile economy.

If it is the latter, companies may want to invest in expert resources to assist them to strategize to retain the best in their workforce, before the economic crisis is over and these employees are, once again, swept into the revolving doors of alternative employment.


Spark a Social Conversation, and Be Heard!

From the invention of the telephone to the spread of the Internet, advances in technology have revolutionized the flow of information and the way we communicate. There was a time when we were elated to simply search the Internet for any topic we could think of, and enjoy consuming pages of information on that topic.

Now, information is so readily available and easily shared with others to the extent that we are inundated with information. We live in a world of 24/7, “always on, never off,” media where we no longer need to seek out the news, products or services ourselves; rather, they find us! A substantial portion of this infoglut can be attributed to the advent and continual evolution of social media and mobile communications.

Interestingly, in March 2010, Hitwise reported that social network, Facebook, surpassed Internet giant, Google, to become the most visited site in the US that week! A similar trend was seen in May 2010 with more Internet traffic going to social networks than search engines in the UK.

Right now, there are more than 500 million active users who spend 700 billion minutes and share over 30 billion pieces of information per month on Facebook. Almost 2 billion videos are watched every day on YouTube, and 24 hours of video are uploaded every minute. By April 2010, Twitter already had over 100 million users sharing 55 million tweets a day.

And this is excluding information coming at us through text messages, e-mail, blogs, websites, RSS feeds and traditional media!

This exoflood of information have led many to conclude that the Information Age is behind us, and we have, in fact, entered the Attention Age in which human attention is a scarce commodity. Herbert Simon explained this concept further:

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

Chief Marketing Officers are recognizing the significance of this paradigm shift in the way companies and consumers communicate and interact with each other via social media platforms, and have already begun to include social commerce in their marketing strategy and budgets, and use customer insights in key planning and decision-making processes.

Electronic dialogue about your company, your brand, your cause is continuing to take place in real time. If social media isn’t yet a part of your company’s business strategy, then you’re already falling behind your competitors.

PRiyaCOMM can help your company to spark a dialogue with the right blend of marketing and PR/communications tactics to break through all the content, and be heard.


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