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Texting & Emojis in Patient Communications

Patient Experience

Disclaimer: This blog article was written by an AdvancedMD partner. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AdvancedMD.

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.

[email protected]
(631) 403 6687

Michael Brody, DPM
Dr Brody has been actively involved in Computers and Medicine since the 1980’s. Dr Brody as a Residency Director at a VA hospital on Long Island and was present as the VA moved from paper records to computerized records. During this time, he was exposed to the stringent rules and regulations that government employees need to adhere to when protecting patient information. He co-founded TLD Systems with Warren Melnick to create a platform that doctors who wish to work in private practice have a cost-effective method of implementing HIPAA compliance in their practices in a manner that does not interfere with their ability to practice medicine. He has served on the Health Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), the Standards and Interoperability Framework (S&I), as a member of the Ambulatory Care Committee at the Certification Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT), and numerous other organizations. He is currently a member of the Physicians Committee at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and a co-Chair of the EHR workgroup at Health Level Seven International (HL7)

Topic: Patient Experience

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