Nadha Illikkal

For the past 9 weeks, I have had the incredible opportunity to intern at Aravind-Madurai. Aravind is truly an amazing place, and you can really feel a sense of purpose and vision in every aspect of the organization. I’ve learned about that hard work, focus, passion, and curiosity can do wonders, as those who work at Aravind prove every day. During my time here, I worked closely with the patient feedback team. My project was about identifying new techniques for patient feedback collection. At the time I am writing this, the patient feedback team uses three main methods to collect feedback: phone surveys, direct surveying, and focus groups. The problem with this is that the team only reaches out to a 1% sample of Aravind’s totals patients. Not only is this a very small sliver, but it also requires a lot of manpower to do actually collect this information. So, my project hoped to address this issue. I focused on three new techniques for feedback collection: bulk SMS, QR codes, and a kiosk. For the SMS component, I did a formal pilot study comparing response rates and costs of three types of SMS methods (we are hoping to publish this paper in the future). After completing the study with the help of the patient feedback team, I found that collecting SMS-driven feedback through missed calls was the most effective and least costly method. This technique collected feedback from 3.7% of the population, compared to the 1% sample that is currently used. In addition, the cost per response for the missed call method (5.87) was also lower that the feedback team’s current calling cost per response (8.72). While the SMS study took up the most of my focus, I also spent some time setting up QR codes and a kiosk. Both of these projects will continue to be worked on with the help of the patient education team and the IT team, respectively. Working at Aravind has been a great experience, but like in any other internship, I have had my ups and downs here. One of the best things about working here was how willing everyone was to help me with my project. Staff from all departments (biostatistics, research, library, feedback, etc.) were ready to give up their time and energy to assist me in my work. This collaborative atmosphere at Aravind was one of the highlights of my experience here. Depending on the project, different sorts of challenges arise. Because a lot of project involved being on a laptop, I spent most of my days sitting in an office with my co-interns. With Aravind’s long hours, staying in the office sometimes felt dreary, and it was at times difficult to stay motivated on my project. One of the ways I tried to keep myself actively working was to keep shorter deadlines for myself, or come up with a list of things to do for the day as soon as I got into the office in the morning. Advice for Future Interns:

  • Come with an open mind and be flexible!
  • Be prepared to have a lot of downtime.
  • Download books to read! The Wi-Fi can be spotty.
  • Find out what keeps you motivated at work, whether it’s to-do lists or taking 5 minute breaks or something else
  • Get to know your co-workers at Aravind! They’re such great people and you can learn a lot about the organization (and life) from them.
  • Language might be a barrier at times, but just be patient.
  • Go to Appams and Hoppers for dinner. The chicken cheese appam is beyond words!
Overall, I have had a wonderful experience at Aravind this summer. I’ve learned so much from the organization, its vision, and its people. I hope to keep in touch and maybe visit again!