skip to page content
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Content Analysis of Emoji and Emoticon Use in Clinical Texting Systems.

Halverson CME, Donnelly CE, Weiner M, Lee JL. Content Analysis of Emoji and Emoticon Use in Clinical Texting Systems. JAMA Network Open. 2023 Jun 1; 6(6):e2318140.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


IMPORTANCE: Emoji and emoticons are quickly becoming an omnipresent feature of virtual communication. As health care systems increasingly adopt clinical texting applications, it is critical to understand how clinicians use these ideograms with colleagues and how it may affect their interactions. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the functions that emoji and emoticons serve in clinical text messages. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This qualitative study's content analysis of clinical text messages from a secure clinical messaging platform was conducted to assess the communicative function of emoji and emoticons. The analysis included messages sent by hospitalists to other health care clinicians. A subset of a random 1% sample of all message threads, which included at least 1 emoji or emoticon, on a clinical texting system used by a large, Midwestern US hospital from July 2020 until March 2021 were analyzed. A total of 80 hospitalists participated in the candidate threads. MAIN OUTCOMES: Whether and what kind of emoji or emoticon was deployed in each reviewed thread was tabulated by the study team. The communicative function of each emoji and emoticon was assessed according to a prespecified coding scheme. RESULTS: A total of 80 hospitalists (49 [61%] male; 30 [37%] Asian, 5 [6%] Black or African American, 2 [3%] Hispanic or Latinx, 42 [53%] White; of 41 with age data, 13 [32%] aged 25-34 years, 19 [46%] aged 35-44 years) participated in the 1319 candidate threads. Within the sample of 1319 threads, 7% of threads (155 unique messages) contained at least 1 emoji or emoticon. The majority (94 [61%]) functioned emotively, that is, conveyed the internal state of the sender, and 49 (32%) served to open, maintain, or close communication. No evidence was identified that they caused confusion or were seen as inappropriate. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This qualitative study found that when clinicians use emoji and emoticons in secure clinical texting systems, these symbols function primarily to convey new and interactionally salient information. These results suggest that concerns about the professionalism of emoji and emoticon use may be unwarranted.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.