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You may already know about HIPAA issues related to text messages containing patient information (PHI) and the need to capture all messages texted to and from patients within the patient record. A recent article by the American Bar Association (ABA) delves deeper into texting and use of the emojis, highlighting potential risks associated with using the all too familiar messaging feature.
The ABA article points out that emojis within texts are now being included as evidence in courts today. Because not every operating system uses the same set of emojis, this development can result is a more difficult defense if you find yourself involved with a malpractice suit.
Here’s what can happen and cause problems in litigation: When sending a text with an emoji, the emoji sent may not be the emoji received, potentially changing the perceived meaning (sometimes significantly) of your message.
For example, the smiley-face emoji (😊) looks more like a grimace in Apple’s early iOS 6, 8, and 9, delivering the impression that the sender may be more ready to fight than share a friendly sentiment. The emoji may also appear more like a wide grin in later iOS 10 and 11 systems. 😁
Another example is the astonished face emoji — the one with the mouth and eyes in a wide OOOH! 😲 On one service, the face looks more angry than surprised; and on another, the eyes are X’s, making it look like a dead man symbol.
The bottom line: It is best to avoid the use of emojis when texting in professional communications between you and other doctors, and between you and your patients,
If you have questions about developing patient communication policy and procedures, Dr. Michael Brody at TLD Systems can help.