Emoji Prove Effective for Monitoring Cancer Patients' Health

Researchers at Mayo Clinic use emoji to determine how cancer patients are managing treatment.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Life is complicated; a cancer diagnosis compounds that complication. When physicians find ways to help ease the complexities of a patient's treatment, it's a win.

Mayo Clinic researchers recently used emoji to help patients measure their overall well-being during treatment. The study used two scales — a mood scale and an ordinal scale — featuring a total of 10 different emoji. The emoji expressions, ranging from smiling faces to large frowns, help patients express their current mood.

"Medicine has gotten so complicated," says Carrie A. Thompson, M.D., a hematologist and the study's lead author. "So to have something simple that breaks down the barriers of communication, health literacy, language — we all know emoji. We all know what emotions various faces reflect."

The research to determine how a patient was managing treatment through the use of emoji included ways doctors could track patients' progress using apps on phones or watches. While further research is needed to validate these findings, the possibility of using this technology to improve future patient care is promising.

"If we can demonstrate that simple emoji are valid and reliable measurements of patient well-being, it could transform the way patient wellbeing assessments are accomplished," Dr. Thompson says.

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