A new clinical language: 5 things to know about emoji use in healthcare settings

Whether it's through EHRs, smartphones or computers, most medical professionals communicate virtually throughout the day. Emoji are a common part of that communication, and their use in the medical field has now been analyzed by health tech company PerfectServe in its Feb. 22 report

In a September 2021 study published in JAMA Network, researchers looking at emoji usage came to the conclusion that while they may be judged as a millennial fad, they hold a power to standardize and universalize communication between physicians and patients. 

By analyzing more than 15,000 messages and emoji characters, the PerfectServe report digs deeper into how exactly health professionals use emojis among themselves.

Five things to know: 

  1. The thumbs-up emoji was the most widely used by medical professionals, followed by the smiling-eyes smiling-face emoji and the praying hands emoji. 

  2. The top emoji used by healthcare professionals at work are different from those of the general public. The report suggests that the difference indicates that clinicians are using emoji to develop new jargon and communication protocols. 

  3. Practitioners with roles such as MD, physician assistant and DO sent more emoji than other care staff, including registered nurses or certified nursing assistants and administrators, given that many nurses aren't equipped with smartphones on the job.

  4. Specialists in internal medicine used emoji the most, accounting for 25 percent of the sample. Orthopedics followed, then rehabilitation and physical medicine.
  5. Thursday afternoons were the most active time for emoji use, followed by Friday afternoons. 

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