[interview] Anita Rénier – “Users are now so familiar with hospitals”

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8 August 2016

Interview with Anita Rénier, Director of Communications for Angers CHU.

Why have you set up a conference dedicated to social networking in hospitals?

There were a lot of questions, and we could see that some hospital managers were reluctant to use social networks, whilst our CHU, having taken the plunge in 2010, was beginning to become quite adept at it and we saw that there was a genuine interest in it, both in terms of our relationship with the users but also with the hospital staff.

We were confident, and we still are, that this new medium was going to play an increasingly significant role in the establishment’s communications and appeal. We organised the HospiLike conference to share our own experiences and those of the other CHUs involved like us, but also to think collectively about this subject, together with professionals in the fields of communications and sociology, about the importance and the future of social networks in our hospital strategies.

With Angers CHU having used social networking for 6 years now, what lessons have you learned? How would you say social networks have changed?

Social networks change the traditional model of communication. These days, the concept of issuer-receiver is making way for a joint-creation media model. Unlike the way a conventional website works, on social networks the user co-creates the communication medium with the establishment itself and so, as form affects substance, the very nature of the message is changed. Consequently, we have to alter our stance, to use different methods of talking to our users and our agents who, as a result of social networks, have become very familiar with hospitals, building closer relationships that are on an equal footing with them.

How would you sum up the first HospiLike conference that took place on 11 December 2014?

We noticed that healthcare establishments and professionals were demonstrating a growing interest in social media. The conference was organised by a public establishment, but it was open to the private medical sector, amongst which it was very popular.

We were delighted to see doctors, managerial staff and caregivers, directors of communication, hospital directors and also legal counsel join in the debate. Finally, the event helped to legitimise the use of social networking for establishments that had not quite dared to take the plunge.

What challenges do social networks present for hospitals?

On the ground, we note an upsurge in questions from users submitted through social networks. But that is to be expected. Previously, people were less inclined to ask questions; social networks are a perfect forum for requests that were simply not expressed in the past, and it is our duty as a public service to respond to them. We now need to handle these requests in a new way, in compliance with the law, of course, but we need to take a different approach to them than we would have done just 5 or 6 years ago...

The 2nd HospiLike conference, which takes place on 24 November in Angers, will focus on “Social media-proof doctor-patient relationships”. What impact can social networks have on this relationship?

The subject of hospital social networking is not confined to the hospital’s own accounts; we also have to monitor what is said about us in any digital environment. Dialogue is often initiated, or questions raised, on other accounts; personal accounts or those of “e-patient” communities. And so, a particular doctor can be shown in a positive or negative light, and the hospital is then obliged to intervene to respond to the allegations. This type of situation is handled on a case-by-case basis, but clearly this is going to affect the relationship between doctors and their patients. To debate these issues, the conference will include presentations from hospital professionals, digital media professionals, representatives of online patient communities, lawyers and doctors.

What kinds of actions/decisions could come out of these conferences? What are your expectations?

Social networking is still in its infancy. These conferences aim to share good practice and disseminate recommendations. We hope to boost the awareness of hospital decision-makers about digital communication and convince those at all levels that it is absolutely vital to get on board with social networking. It is a real culture shock for hospitals to be ‘desanctified’ in this way as regards their relationships with their patients, but the HospiLike conferences demonstrate that healthcare establishments can use social networks rationally and intelligently, in their own best interests.


Anita Rénier, Director of Communications for Angers CHU


Find out more:

[Special Edition] Are hospitals emerging as the champions of social networking?
What organisation can do without social networking these days? It is now impossible to talk about digital transformation without having a social media presence. Hospitals have grasped this very well, and have fully immersed themselves in the conversation: in 2014, 69% of public hospitals were on Facebook.

Read the special edition