Skip to main content

An Analysis of WhatsApp Usage for Communication Between Consulting and Emergency Physicians


The aim of this study was to evaluate WhatsApp messenger usage for communication between consulting and emergency physicians. A retrospective, observational study was conducted in the emergency department (ED) of a tertiary care university hospital between January 2014 and June 2014. A total of 614 consultations requested by using the WhatsApp application were evaluated, and 519 eligible consultations were included in the study. The WhatsApp messages that were transferred to consultant physicians consisted of 510 (98.3 %) photographic images, 517 (99.6 %) text messages, 59 (11.3 %) videos, and 10 (1.9 %) voice messages. Consultation was most frequently requested from the orthopedics clinic (n = 160, 30.8 %). The majority of requested consultations were terminated only by evaluation via WhatsApp messages. (n = 311, 59.9 %). Most of the consulting physicians were outside of the hospital or were mobile at the time of the consultation (n = 292, 56.3 %). The outside consultation request rate was significantly higher for night shifts than for day shifts (p = .004), and the majority of outside consultation request were concluded by only WhatsApp application (p < .001). WhatsApp is useful a communication tool between physicians, especially for ED consultants who are outside the hospital, because of the ability to transfer large amounts of clinical and radiological data during a short period of time.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Kessler, C. S., Tadisina, K. K., Saks, M., et al., The 5Cs of consultation: Training medical students to communicate effectively in the emergency department. J. Emerg. Med. 49(5):713–721, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.05.012.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Johnston, M. J., King, D., Arora, S., et al., Smartphones let surgeons know WhatsApp: An analysis of communication in emergency surgical teams. Am. J. Surg. 209(1):45–51, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2014.08.030.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Lo, V., Wu, R. C., Morra, D., Lee, L., and Reeves, S., The use of smartphones in general and internal medicine units: A boon or a bane to the promotion of interprofessional collaboration? J. Interprof Care 26(4):276–282, 2012. doi:10.3109/13561820.2012.663013.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Anglano, C., Forensic analysis of WhatsApp Messenger on Android smartphones. Digit. Investig. 11:201–213, 2014.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Wani, S. A., Rabah, S. M., Alfadil, S., Dewanjee, N., and Najmi, Y., Efficacy of communication amongst staff members at plastic and reconstructive surgery section using smartphone and mobile WhatsApp. Indian J. Plast. Surg. 46(3):502–505, 2013. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.121990.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. Dorwal, P., Sachdev, R., Gautam, D., et al., Role of WhatsApp messenger in the laboratory management system: A boon to communication. J. Med. Syst. 40(1):14, 2016. doi:10.1007/s10916-015-0384-2.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Giordano, V., Koch, H. A., Mendes, C. H., Bergamin, A., and de Souza, F. S., do Amaral NP. WhatsApp Messenger is useful and reproducible in the assessment of tibial plateau fractures: Inter- and intra-observer agreement study. Int. J. Med. Inform. 84(2):141–148, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2014.11.002.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Astarcioglu, M. A., Sen, T., Kilit, C., Durmus, H. I., et al., Time-to-reperfusion in STEMI undergoing interhospital transfer using smartphone and WhatsApp messenger. Am. J. Emerg. Med. 33(10):1382–1384, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2015.07.029.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Free, C., Phillips, G., Watson, L., et al., The effectiveness of mobile health technologies to improve health care service delivery processes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med. 10(1), e1001363, 2013. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001363.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Chandhanayingyong, C., Tangtrakulwanich, B., and Kiriratnikom, T., Teleconsultation for emergency orthopaedic patients using the multimedia messaging service via mobile phones. J. Telemed. Telecare 13(4):193–196, 2007.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Al-Hadithy, N., Gikas, P. D., and Al-Nammari, S. S., Smartphones in orthopaedics. Int. Orthop. 36(8):1543–1547, 2012. doi:10.1007/s00264.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Lee, R. S., Woods, R., Bullard, M., Holroyd, B. R., and Rowe, B. H., Consultations in the emergency department: A systematic review of the literature. Emerg. Med. J. 25(1):4–9, 2008.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Erenler, A. K., Akbulut, S., Guzel, M., et al., Reasons for overcrowding in the emergency department: Experiences and suggestions of an education and research Hospital. Turk. J. Emerg. Med. 14(2):59–63, 2014. doi:10.5505/1304.7361.2014.48802.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Brick, C., Lowes, J., Lovstrom, L., et al., The impact of consultation on length of stay in tertiary care emergency departments. Emerg. Med. J. 31(2):134–138, 2014. doi:10.1136/emermed-2012-201908.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Harvey, R., Jarrett, P. G., and Peltekian, K. M., Patterns of paging medical interns during night calls at two teaching hospitals. CMAJ 151(3):307–311, 1994.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. Kulstad, E. B., Sikka, R., Sweis, R. T., and Kelley, K. M., Rzechula KH.ED overcrowding is associated with an increased frequency of medication errors. Am. J. Emerg. Med. 28(3):304–309, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2008.12.014.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Beglinger, B., Rohacek, M., Ackermann, S., et al., Physician’s first clinical impression of emergency department patients with nonspecific complaints is associated with morbidity and mortality. Medicine(Baltimore) 94(7), e374, 2015. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000000374.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Wong, H. T., Poon, W. S., Jacobs, P., et al., The comparative impact of video consultation on emergency neurosurgical referrals. Neurosurgery 59(3):607–613, 2006. discussion 607–13.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Mickan, S., Tilson, J. K., Atherton, H., Roberts, N. W., and Heneghan, C., Evidence of effectiveness of health care professionals using handheld computers: A scoping review of systematic reviews. J. Med. Internet Res. 15(10), e212, 2013. doi:10.2196/jmir.2530.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. Martínez-Pérez, B., de la Torre-Díez, I., and López-Coronado, M., Experiences and results of applying tools for assessing the quality of a mHealth App Named Heartkeeper. J. Med. Syst. 39(11):142, 2015. doi:10.1007/s10916-015-0303-6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank to Associate Professor Fatih UCKARDES, Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics Adiyaman University Medical Faculty, for the statistical edition of the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Umut Gulacti.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest was declared by the authors

Funding Disclosure

The authors declared that this study has received no financial support

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Mobile Systems

Electronic supplementary material


View in the smartphone memory of Computerized Tomography transmitted via WhatsApp (WMV 15619 kb)


Patient monitor rhythm sound transmitted via WhatsApp as voice message (AAC 77 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gulacti, U., Lok, U., Hatipoglu, S. et al. An Analysis of WhatsApp Usage for Communication Between Consulting and Emergency Physicians. J Med Syst 40, 130 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Consultation
  • Communication
  • Online systems
  • WhatsApp
  • Emergency department