In an increasingly fast-paced world, emojis – like the ever-popular smiley face – have crept into text messages, tweets and emails.

Shuhan He, MD, an MGH emergency physician, says he hopes to take emojis even further by making them a bigger part of patient-provider communication and the electronic health record.

Last week, He took a major step toward that goal after two digital icons he helped create – an anatomical heart and a set of lungs – were among the 117 new emojis to be rolled out to all smartphones later this year.

He says there has long been a desire – inside medical circles and on social media – to see an accurate-looking heart and lung in the emoji lexicon. He and his co-authors used that information to pitch their pictograms to the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization that meets every year to review applications and vote on the newest emoji submissions.

“Chest pain and shortness of breath are two of the most common complaints we hear in the emergency department,” says He. “There are times when a patient can’t communicate that, either because of a language barrier or for some other reason. And in situations when seconds count, emojis like these could help us greatly.”

Emojis aren’t just a hobby for He. With a dual role as a physician and the associate director for the strategic alliance initiative through the Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare, He is sharply focused on the ways the cartoon-like emoticons could help improve patient care and outcomes.

“We’re interested in working with leadership from all departments to ensure emojis stay clinically relevant for our patients,” says He.

He says he also hopes his two new emojis and any future medical emojis will benefit patients by educating them about heart and lung health, vaccinations, antismoking efforts, medication adherence and other lifestyle interventions.