May 15, 2018

The 15 health care emojis coming to your phone—maybe—in 2019

Daily Briefing

    The Unicode Consortium, the international nonprofit that coordinates the popular Unicode standard for encoding text, on Wednesday announced its list of 104 "draft candidates" for new emojis in 2019—including "mechanical arm," "ear with hearing aid," "blood drop," and several others related to health care.

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    Why public health experts have embraced emojis

    In the past, public health experts have embraced emojis as a way of spreading health messages. For example, Marla Shaivitz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Jeff Chertak of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation advocated for the creation of a mosquito emoji. The pair argued the "emoji could be used in communications campaigns and warnings" related to mosquito-borne viruses, such as malaria and Zika. The mosquito emoji was recently added to the Unicode standard.

    In addition, NYC Health + Hospitals in 2016 launched an outreach campaign that featured suggestive images based on emojis for eggplants, peaches, birds, and bees as a way of engaging teenagers in discussions about sexual and reproductive health.

    Health care emojis that made the 'short list'

    According to the Unicode Consortium, the proposed emojis are "short-listed" as "candidates for inclusion in a future version of Unicode" but are not yet final. A final determination will be made in September.

    Below is the full list of proposed emojis relevant to health care. Images of the proposed emojis are available on Unicode's website. Full disclosure: We've had to make some editorial calls on what qualifies as "relevant" to health care. "Service animal vest" made the cut. "Butter," although arguably a public health hazard, did not—nor did "parachute," even though treatment for a parachutist injured upon landing has its own ICD-10 code, V97.22XA. With that in mind, here's what we came up with:

    • mechanical arm;
    • mechanical leg;
    • ear with hearing aid;
    • ear with hearing aid: light skin tone;
    • ear with hearing aid: medium-light skin tone;
    • ear with hearing aid: medium skin tone;
    • ear with hearing aid: medium-dark skin tone;
    • ear with hearing aid: dark skin tone;
    • service animal vest;
    • guide dog;
    • manual wheelchair;
    • motorized wheelchair;
    • blood drop;
    • adhesive bandage; and
    • stethoscope (Unicode, Unicode Blog, 5/9; Unicode, "Draft Emoji Candidates," accessed 5/9).

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