Patient and Health Care Worker Perceptions of Communication and Ability to Identify Emotion When Wearing Standard and Transparent Masks

Jacqueline N. Chu, Joy E. Collins, Tina T. Chen, Peter R. Chai, Farah Dadabhoy, James D. Byrne, Adam Wentworth, Ian A. Deandrea-Lazarus, Christopher J. Moreland, Jaime A.B. Wilson, Alicia Booth, Omkar Ghenand, Chin Hur, Giovanni Traverso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Importance: Adoption of mask wearing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic alters daily communication. Objective: To assess communication barriers associated with mask wearing in patient-clinician interactions and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Design, Setting, and Participants: This pilot cross-sectional survey study included the general population, health care workers, and health care workers who are deaf or hard of hearing in the United States. Volunteers were sampled via an opt-in survey panel and nonrandomized convenience sampling. The general population survey was conducted between January 5 and January 8, 2021. The health care worker surveys were conducted between December 3, 2020, and January 3, 2021. Respondents viewed 2 short videos of a study author wearing both a standard and transparent N95 mask and answered questions regarding mask use, communication, preference, and fit. Surveys took 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Main Outcomes and Measures: Participants' perceptions were assessed surrounding the use of both mask types related to communication and the ability to express emotions. Results: The national survey consisted of 1000 participants (mean [SD] age, 48.7 [18.5] years; 496 [49.6%] women) with a response rate of 92.25%. The survey of general health care workers consisted of 123 participants (mean [SD] age, 49.5 [9.0] years; 84 [68.3%] women), with a response rate of 11.14%. The survey of health care workers who are deaf or hard of hearing consisted of 45 participants (mean [SD] age, 54.5 [9.0] years; 30 [66.7%] women) with a response rate of 23.95%. After viewing a video demonstrating a study author wearing a transparent N95 mask, 781 (78.1%) in the general population, 109 general health care workers (88.6%), and 38 health care workers who are deaf or hard of hearing (84.4%) were able to identify the emotion being expressed, in contrast with 201 (20.1%), 25 (20.5%), and 11 (24.4%) for the standard opaque N95 mask. In the general population, 450 (45.0%) felt positively about interacting with a health care worker wearing a transparent mask; 76 general health care workers (61.8%) and 37 health care workers who are deaf or hard of hearing (82.2%) felt positively about wearing a transparent mask to communicate with patients. Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this study suggest that transparent masks could help improve communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJAMA network open
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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