Chris Pointon (@PointonChris) is co-founder of the #hellomynameis campaign and husband of Dr. Kate Granger, a geriatrician who worked for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust in England. Dr. Granger was diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumor in 2011. Her experience as a patient turned her into a campaigner for more compassionate care until her passing in July of 2016. IHI Europe/Middle East Regions Project Assistant Sarah Hazlitt interviewed Mr. Pointon about how a simple tweet to encourage health care staff to introduce themselves turned into an international campaign.
How did the #hellomynameis campaign start?
The campaign came out of a hospital admission that Kate and I experienced in 2013. It became apparent after quite a few interactions that not many health care staff were introducing themselves. Usually one may not pick up on this, but it was really getting to Kate because she was feeling quite low and her pain was increasing. When we talked about it that evening, I just said to her, “Stop whinging and do something about it” and #hellomynameis was born.
Kate already had a large Twitter following, so we felt we could use the power of social media to get the message out. At the start, we thought this would be a two-week, two-month, or maybe six-month phenomena. But look how far it has come!
[The campaign] probably shouldn’t have been needed in the first place. We all think we’re courteous and communicate well, but if you stop and think about it, maybe we aren’t. That’s why this campaign continues to be so important for health care globally.What do you think gets in the way of something as basic as an introduction?
We hear “I haven’t got the time to do X, Y, Z” a lot. However, it probably takes less than two seconds to stop and say, “Hello, my name is Chris.” Starting a relationship this way can only be for the better. If you start off with a friendly [greeting and introduction] rather than, “I’m going to be taking blood from you today,” it calms the patient down. It certainly improves the level of compassionate care and communication.
What have you achieved so far? Where would you like the campaign to go from here?
The amount of uptake from the very start, from within the NHS first and foremost, then across the world has been unbelievable. My ambition now is to keep sending the message across as many health care and other establishments as I can, making sure that organizations embed the change into their culture.
It can take several months, if not years, to embed change into an organization, but such a simple change with such a simple message can have a huge impact. I think that’s why so many organizations have chosen to make this part of their culture, to add it to their office signature, or make it part of their name badges. [People I’ve met] aren’t being told to do it. It’s been their choice. The campaign is about people who are willing and wanting to connect with patients in a meaningful way.
I want to be able to walk into any hospital in the world and have people introduce themselves because of the campaign. I know it’s a big ambition, but you have to dream big.What lessons have you learned about starting a grassroots patient advocacy campaign?
Keep it simple. Make it easy. Have confidence in yourself. Doing something simple that involves little or no money makes it easier for others to join you.
There are people who always expect others to be the ones to make big changes and define health care. Why can’t it be an individual [with a good idea]? Everyone can make a difference in a tiny way or in a huge way.
If you believe something is going to change the way in which society and health care operate, then why not talk to people about it? In this day and age, with the power of social media, why not give it a try?
Call you recall a proudest or most moving moment of the campaign so far?
Obviously, I am immensely proud of everything that Kate achieved in her life. A lot of people forget that Kate was terminally ill while she was going to conferences, going back to work, and raising £250,000 for charity. She was a true inspiration.
One moment was when Kate received her MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from the Royal family. Not many people receive such a prestigious recognition for work in health care, so to see Kate up there was amazing. It’s a day I will never forget.
The second would be around 2015. We embarked on a weeklong tour of the UK. Kate spoke at various hospitals and trusts. It was like being with a health care celebrity. Seeing her in action and seeing the response the packed audiences gave her was incredible. It was a defining moment in the campaign.
Chris Pointon and Dr. Kate Granger pose with pop star and #hellomynameis supporter, Kylie Minogue.
Did anything surprise you while trying to spread your message?
When we first put [#hellomynameis] on social media, it was quite surprising to see how many similar occurrences [of health care staff not introducing themselves] were happening across the world. It was quite sad.
We were also surprised by how many people got behind the campaign from all corners of the world. [In addition to the UK], we have had a lot of response across Australia, Africa, and America. We just launched in Romania — I wasn’t even aware of it until I saw it pop up on social media. It is surprising how far [our message] has traveled.
The other surprising aspect is how much fun people have with it. People have had selfie campaigns and used badges and lanyards. People are driving a really serious message through fun activities.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to say thanks for the ongoing support from IHI. Also, I want people to know that even through adversity, you can create a legacy. Kate was dealt certain cards in her life that meant she wasn’t with us for very long, but in those years she made a difference. Without wanting to sound corny or anything, it is important to make sure that when you are on this planet you are making a difference.
Note: This conversation was edited for length and clarity.
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