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The Arts and Medicine
September 7, 2021

Emoji for the Medical Community—Challenges and Opportunities

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College of London, London, UK
  • 2Emojination and Unicode Consortium, Mountain View, California
  • 3Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 4Lab of Computer Science, Department of Internal Medicine, Center for Innovation in Digital Healthcare, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 5Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2021;326(9):795-796. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.8409

In 2010 emoji were officially introduced to the global lexicon as part of Unicode, the computing standards adhered to by most of the world's word processing systems. Today an emoji occupies the same status in Unicode as the Latin letter A, or Chinese character 愛, or Arabic غ, and an estimated 5 billion are used every day on Facebook and in Facebook Messenger alone.1 Emoji set curation is overseen by Unicode Consortium, a Silicon Valley–based nonprofit tasked with maintaining text standards across computers, whose members include representatives from Microsoft, Apple, and Google, among others. Anyone can propose new emoji, but each submission is reviewed via a formal and lengthy consortium process.

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    1 Comment for this article
    Universal Symbols, Not Emoji
    Hugh Williams, MBA, BN | Private
    I suggest the term 'Emoji' is a current fashionable term used to describe pictographic symbols embedded in text. Universal symbols have the advantage of being understandable across all language groups, eg the no entry symbol / not allowed symbol (red circle with a red diagonal line). I suggest, to be successful, any symbol should be universally recognisable, including by people with little or no medical knowledge. For example the picture of a liver could be mistaken for bicycle seat whereas the PQRS wave would be recognisable in most Western cultures.