Anyone adverse to blogging and social media might be rather cynical about any initiative linked to improving frontline health and social care that has grown out of a blog post and numerous 140 character interactions between total strangers.
Yet from the sometimes impersonal nature of online communication has come an eye-catchingly personal campaign that is all about putting the formation of relationships back into care. #hellomynameis has been pioneered by Dr Kate Granger, a doctor who specialises in the care of older people and who is also terminally ill. This simple hashtag has reached far and wide, with many health and social care professionals changing their name on twitter to reflect a simple #hellomynameis introduction.
Recently lauded by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt during a speech he gave at Guy's and St Thomas' hospital, #hellomynameis has come a long way since Kate Granger first highlighted her passion for this topic in September last year. Her idea is a simple one: if a healthcare professional introduces themselves to their patient, they instantly break down barriers and begin to build a relationship. It's about humanity, putting the patient at ease and giving them a tiny bit of information about the professional to offset the huge amount available to that professional about the patient.
It may seem obvious, and as Kate herself points out such interaction was a standard part of medical school training. Despite this, however, health and social care has become increasingly impersonal, often losing sight of the fact that at the heart of good care is good relationships, and they generally start with the sort of foundation communication skills we learn in childhood.
Think about it: As a child we greet other children by telling them our name, perhaps commenting on something that they are doing, or wearing, talking to them about a topic that is important to them or to us, and asking if we can join in with their play or borrow their toy. Simple, transferable skills that set us up for adulthood and that should, in theory, be second nature to us by the time we embark on our working life.
So how has this common courtesy become so lost that we need #hellomynameis? In one word: processes. As our population has grown so we have become increasingly fond of the factory farming approach to societal interaction. Health and social care have burgeoned into gargantuan systems that have a box to tick for everything, which is great for creating endless paperwork, but somewhat less effective in helping to form a mutually respectful and understanding relationship between professional and patient.
As a result the patient often feels like a tiny cog in a huge wheel, rather than being at the centre of the wheel controlling everything that the wheel does. They may well have a clinically expert multi-disciplinary team around them, but it is perfectly possible that they feel like little more than a body in a bed. Yet aside from exceptional circumstances I don't think that the ability to react to each other on a human level ever really leaves us, so there is hope if only the juggernauts of health and social care can stop crushing the human spirit that I believe underpins the work of the vast majority of health and social care professionals.
With its easily understood, common sense ideals, #hellomynameis provides a wonderful example of how simple it can be to put relationships back at the heart of health and social care. Beginning a professional/patient relationship with an automatically comforting, human approach is the first step to making care about working WITH the patient rather than just doing things TO them. Admittedly as a health or social care professional you may have to make that introduction a hundred times a day, but for each patient it's a first time and as we all know, first impressions are everything.
So from me to you; "Hello my name is Beth. How are you today?"