high 5 web

Sharing positive feedback with coworkers not only helps boost their morale but also makes the sender feel good too! But in a dispersed environment like Penn Medicine – where you’re not always working side-by-side with the same people – it can be hard. And, in the fast-paced environment of a hospital, the priority to recognize one another can fall by the wayside. “Understandably, a feel-good comment may not carry the same urgency as addressing an action or behavior that could result in an adverse outcome,” said Kathleen Lee, MD, a clinical innovation manager at Penn’s Center for Health Care Innovation.

Lee learned first hand about the difficulty in sending a compliment to a coworker. As an emergency medicine resident, she had wanted to let an “awesome” senior internal medicine resident she worked with – and his program director – what a great teacher he was. But for several reasons, including her extremely busy schedule, the emails were never sent. She found out months later that the same resident had emailed her program director saying what a great job she had done on service. “It was such a nice gesture and a real morale booster as a junior resident. I felt bad that I had meant to do the same, but didn’t,” she said, but even more, “How do I not let this happen again?”

And thus was born Penn High Five.

This mobile-enhanced, web-based social recognition platform makes it easier than ever for UPHS employees to tell coworkers just how much they are appreciated. The High Five creators – Lee, David Do, MD, of Neurology, and Ian Oppenheim, MD, Lee’s former senior resident (who is now a critical care fellow at Johns Hopkins) – built in many features to facilitate the process. For example, intuitive search capabilities help the sender find the correct recipient. “Even if you only know someone’s first name and their department, the system will help you pinpoint the correct individual,” Lee said. They also created a multimedia library of appreciation-on based memes and gifs to accompany the digital high fives. “Dog memes and Scrubs gifs are some of the most popular!” she said. The sender also has the option to add a personal comment and copy supervisors.


Penn High Five began as a pilot in the Emergency Department two years ago and took off immediately. To date, over 16,000 messages have been sent across the Health System!  Users can log in using their Health System credentials to send a High Five. The recipient receives an email from the sender, with a link to the personalized message on the High Five site. The sent message also populates a live feed on the High Five website that’s specific to the sender’s department.

Several groups including the Emergency Department and Women’s Health at Penn have dedicated nursing station screens that display the High Fives being sent in real-time. The High Five team is now working closely with their IS and Nursing partners to expand this capability to other departments.

Sending a High Five to a colleague is easy (and fun!):

  • Go to pennhighfive.com
  • Use the intuitive search function to find the recipient’s name
  • Choose a meme or gif and add an optional personalized message
  • Then just press send and feel good about making someone’s day just a little better.

“We just want to make people smile,” Lee said. 

Share This Page: