Posted in social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Pat Rich

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This week it’s my great pleasure to chat with Pat Rich, an Ottawa-based medical writer, editor and content curator. 

I first met Pat online several years ago on the #hcsmca (no longer active) Twitter chat. I was captivated by his insightful and intelligent contribution to this and other weekly healthcare chats.

Since then, I’ve had the delight of meeting Pat in real life, most recently at HIMSS Europe this year, where he was reporting live from the conference.

Despite, in his own words, becoming grey in beard and long in tooth, Pat maintains a keen interest and presence on social media, especially Twitter.


I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us something about the role that social media plays in your work.

PR: I spend a few hours daily on social media, usually Twitter, and have done so for the last several years. In addition to my responsibilities in helping manage the Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and blog for Ontario’s health quality agency – Health Quality Ontario – and acting as social media correspondent for the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery (Canada’s dermatology journal) I maintain an active role in live tweeting and blogging from my personal accounts (@pat_health) and Days of Past Futures and in curating health information. I have also served as a social media ambassador for digital health conferences in Europe, Canada and the US. I continue to lecture, when asked, on the professional use of social media by physicians and other health care professionals.

When did you start using social media – what prompted you to get started?

PR: I started using social media about a decade ago to help the Canadian Medical Association (who I worked for at the time) decide how to use the platforms most strategically. It was a natural evolution from my role in managing content on their website. In this role I was able to help the CMA develop the first balanced social media guidelines for Canadian physicians. I was also prompted to become more actively involved in Twitter through my participation with the #hcsmca community and the excellent work of Colleen Young.

You were quite the early adopter Pat. I always think of Twitter when I think of your social media activity. Is this your favorite platform? Are there any others you enjoy using? 

PR: I am all about Twitter. I find this is the platform that fits me best and I hope it remains a viable communications medium until I retire. Through Twitter I have met the most wonderful people from around the world – patients, physicians and many others. However, I still enjoy exploring other social media as well as writing extensively for print. Through my work with Health Quality Ontario I have recently hosted and provided all technical support for a podcast Quality Matters – which has been quite a learning experience.

I first met you on the #hcsmca Twitter chat. Are there any other chats you take part in?

PR:  I am a huge fan of #healthxph, #hcldr, and #Irishmed – which I consider to be the triumvirate of surviving, regular, health oriented tweetchats for health care professionals and patient advocates. I have been lucky enough to meet the hosts of all of these chats personally and strongly admire their commitment and dedication to these volunteer efforts.

I love that you are such a loyal long-term supporter of these chats. The vibrancy and sustainability of this medium is driven by the dedication of the organizers for sure, but also the ongoing support of participants.

You’ve been using social media for a considerable time now – what advice would you give to others who are just starting out with social media?

PR: Start slow. Pick a platform or two that appeals to you and observe before jumping into the conversation. While incredibly useful as information sources and networking platforms, social media continues to become a darker and uglier place, so you need to consider whether it is for you. By picking your platforms and connections carefully, I believe social media still has a lot to offer. And my one big piece of advice to those starting on Twitter: “Never tweet from the pub after 9 pm” (in other words, always have control of all your faculties and think carefully about what you are saying in Twitter)

I think this is great advice Pat even for those of us who are seasoned social media users.  And it’s important that we acknowledge the darker side of social media. Much as it pains me to admit it, there is an uglier side to things online, and we need to protect ourselves as much as we can from malign actors.

So, I like to end these interviews by asking for a favorite quote. Do you have one you’d like to share with us?

PR: I have been hugely influenced by the Australian health quality expert Dr. Jeffrey Braithwaite who recently wrote that:  “Healthcare is a complex adaptive system, meaning that the system’s performance and behaviour changes over time and cannot be completely understood by simply knowing about the individual components.” This has huge implications for those who think they can change health care systems by implementing reforms from above as things just aren’t that easy.

You’ve certainly given us something to think about there Pat. In fact, you always give me something to think about when I interact with you.   For those readers who wish to become more informed on global healthcare topics,  I highly recommend you get on over to Twitter and follow Pat @pat_health. I promise you’ll be wiser for it. 

Thanks for taking the time to share these thoughts with us Pat. Wishing you continued success in all that you do. 


This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here

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