E. CHIN. HO1, M.A.F.TANG1, T.W.W.GO1, C.J.LIM1
Tan Tock Seng Hospital1
Verbal communication is a complex cognitive function that goes beyond hearing. Facial visualization can greatly enhance speech understanding, especially for communication-vulnerable persons. Compromised facial visibility can impact conveyance of emotions and human-feelings. The COVID-19 `new normal’ currently mandates universal face masks within community settings including healthcare. We seek to understand how this impacts HCW-patient communication.
Anonymized Form.SG survey were administered to the HCWs and patients in a tertiary hospital, evaluating their knowledge, attitude and practices with regards to facemask use. Survey responses were presented using descriptive statistics.
384 HCWs and 385 patients were recruited from Dec 2020 to June 2021. There was a near-unanimous concurrence between HCWs and patients that good communication and conveyance of emotions were greatly enhanced by facial expression and lip reading; however, these were compromised by mask wearing. 1/3 of HCWs and nearly half of patients pulled down their facemask to enhance communication when necessary. 2/3 of HCWs were concerned that their patients will not ask their HCW to repeat themselves should they did not hear them during a conversation, but more than 2/3 of patients state they will actually ask (p<0.05). 70% of HCWs and 60% of patients supported the usage of facemasks that allow greater visibility of the wearer’s face as long as protection from infection is not compromised.
One of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that of compromised HCW-patient communication. This may be mitigated by a redesign of our current facemasks to facilitate greater facial visibility without compromising protection.