Tan Tock Seng Hospital1
An unmet healthcare need was identified to redesign the regular medical-grade masks to support communication vulnerable individuals. The redesigned mask should continue to meet prescribed regulatory standards to provide reliable protection against transmission of respiratory droplets. Human factors engineering (HFE) is an innovation framework for the development of products that incorporate human safety, comfort, environment and productivity considerations.
The structured 4-step HFE framework was utilised – Pre-design, Co-design, Re-design, and Post-design. Prospective cross-sectional studies of end-users i.e., patients and healthcare workers (HCWs) were carried out in 1st and 3rd phases.
384 HCWs and 385 patients were recruited during Pre-design phase. 56% of HCWs and 58% of patients supported the usage of facemasks with greater visibility of the wearer’s face with uncompromised infection protection. The Co-design phase involved close collaboration with an industry partner. The collective clinical and manufacturing expertise and creativity; and 7 rounds of pre-prototype iterations with real human testing finally led to a viable prototype. A technical disclosure had been filed and extensive end-user testing was initiated. To date, 69 HCWs and 45 patients/caregivers were recruited during Re-design phase to trial and feedback on this first iteration. Preliminary findings directed further innovation of design features to improve wearer’s comfort. The Post-design phase had been delayed by the latest COVID uptick.
A case study of how the HFE framework is utilised to improve HCW-patient communication. This process can help ensure that the user-centred designed end product will be well accepted by end-users.