Should clinicians use emojis when communicating with each other? – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts 2022-05-04 04:45:15 –

WWhen my colleague wanted to discuss a new, somewhat outdated research project centered around the use of emoji in digital healthcare communication, I shut my mouth. As far as I can remember, he vaguely said, “Emoji has no medical place.”

I am an ear, nose and throat doctor and also the chief medical officer of a company that provides communication technology to medical institutions. My experience in one world often helps me make decisions in another. In this example, when I think of doctors and nurses exchanging emoji as part of patient care, my brain was immediately warned of a “bad idea.”

Early in my residence, I was taught to never write anything irrelevant. Clinicians are supposed to provide facts, never give opinions or be poetic, and always know that what they write may one day need explanation in front of the jury. You need to consider. Maybe my colleague-not a clinician to be fair-did not know that, which is why my reaction to his offer was not enthusiastic.


A Report Some of PerfectServe’s colleagues, published in February about the use of emoji in communication between clinicians, urged me to keep thinking about this topic. I was a little surprised to find that the exchange was overwhelmingly polite and positive among providers using emoji in the medical setting. This caused the gears to spin in my head and my point of view began to change a bit.

I have not yet formed a strong opinion as to whether the emoji of communication between care teams is good or bad. Instead, I came up with some questions. Clinicians once had to deal with how healthcare privacy standards affect text messages. So why aren’t more healthcare providers and organizations discussing emoji? And my favorite question: Healthcare providers understand what it means to have good bedside etiquette. But as interactions become more virtualized and driven by technology, have you thought enough about digital bedside etiquette?


The answer is no, and we hope we can start fixing the problem. After all, emoji are useful.

Let’s talk about emoji

Prior to the advent of Covid-19, the healthcare department made a noise with chunky, somewhat conservative ham. The pandemic has changed things. Clinicians who haven’t spent a day in telemedicine needed to quickly learn how to: Master the details of telemedicine.. Many of us have seen patients who are isolated from their friends and loved ones and are scared and fighting for their lives.

These changes have had a major impact on the way I work and now think more broadly about health care. They did the same for many of my colleagues.

Many clinicians spend more time on laptops and electronic medical records than on patients. According to our research, emojis are often used to add a refreshing human touch to an intense, stressful, sterile environment. The findings also pointed out that emojis could do what the name means — not only to convey emotions — but also to reduce messaging time and add context to help evolving media of clinical communication. .. Overall, this study suggests that emoji are used as a vector of politeness and positive intent in communication between care teams.

I would be disappointed if I didn’t mention it others In the medical world, we’ve been thinking about emojis and their potential to influence communication, but the main difference is that these efforts deepen our understanding of provider-patient interactions and the use of these images. It tends to revolve around how to break down language barriers. .. Because many people use pictograms in some way, these commonly understood symbols are lost if the patient speaks another language or does not fully understand the complexity of medical terms. Of course, it may be possible to convey meaning.

But analyzing how clinicians use pictograms to communicate with each other is, to my knowledge, a new area. I’m not saying that emojis will revolutionize communication between care teams, but given everything I’ve learned, emojis make clinicians more familiar with flat, emotionless words on the screen. I think it will help you to change it into something.

Risk layout

The most likely risks are obvious. In medicine, everything written, whether pictograms or not, is part of the legal record. It also applies to emoji, just as words can be understood differently by different people. You might think that the “thumbs up” emoji is the same as answering “yes” to her colleague’s question, but she doesn’t interpret it that way, and as a result, important clinical behavior. What if you don’t take? As a doctor, my brain goes there soon.

Risk management groups in hospitals and medical institutions definitely have an opinion on the use of emoji in clinical settings, and it is easy to guess what that opinion will be. When text messages first became popular in the medical setting, users were ahead of the curve because there were no specific restrictions to stop text messages. In a sense, they almost forced conversations about text message guardrails. However, although emojis are now ubiquitous in everyday communication, there is no conversation about emoji guardrails in medicine. The clinical communication company I work for was born out of clinicians taking dangerous actions using insecure communication methods, along with other companies that provide a secure messaging platform for care teams. The Chief Security Officer and Chief Information Officer stood up and said, “Wait a minute, this isn’t okay. You have to stop and find a safe alternative.”

To be clear, we don’t have the same conversation. Because insecure communication has more risks built in than just using emoji. But we finally acknowledge the existing tendency to be treated as a head-to-head game for too long. Emojis are real and are already used in the medical setting. Therefore, it is important to contextualize them, suppress them where necessary to mitigate risk, and still evaluate what they may offer.

Maintaining humanity in the digital world

As healthcare becomes more digital, clinicians are working on ways to maintain meaningful relationships while embracing the positives that technology can offer.

At the macro level, there is the rise of machines to the traditional humanity of the patient-clinician relationship. This relationship has been the basis of medicine since ancient times. As such, the idea of ​​incorporating technology onslaught and emoji, yet another symbol of social “digitization,” can disappoint some people. Clinicians learn proper bedside etiquette, which is most often done in the context of face-to-face interactions. Especially when it comes to communicating with colleagues, I’m still thinking about how to shape digital bedside etiquette.

Emoji and care team issues are largely unknown, but the first thing we see is that emoji can help eliminate infertility in the clinician-clinician interaction. There also seems to be an implicit note that written (or in this case textual) words may not be able to convey the correct meaning or tone by themselves. It’s probably good if the emoji can add some of the subtext lost in the transition from face-to-face conversation to text exchange.

But the concept of using emoji in healthcare goes beyond “right” or “wrong.” The healthcare community has the opportunity to hold a wealth of conversations about long-standing trends that have not been fully discussed. How do you maintain relationships and trust and keep these bonds realistic and humane while leveraging what technology can do? Answering that question should be a topic for future consideration.

I haven’t started using 😊 or 👍 while communicating with fellow clinicians, but I look forward to hearing from others the risks and benefits of carefully weaving emoji into healthcare communication.

Rodrigo Martínez is an otolaryngologist PerfectServeHealthcare Communication and Provider Scheduling Technology Provider.

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