Communication, a bi-directional act, helps people exchange information, ideas, share feelings and thoughts. Communication may be verbal (e.g. speech), non-verbal (e.g. Text messages, facial expressions, gestures, signs, pictures, emojis) or often a combination of both.
In view of the current COVID- 19 pandemic, it is recommended that all healthcare providers and patients wear face masks. Using masks may interfere with communication in the following ways:
(1) masks attenuate speech signals produced by the speaker thus making the speech sound soft (decreased loudness) and muffled (unclear production)
(2) masks may render the voice of a person unnatural
(3) masks will ‘mask’ a large part of our facial expressions which is an important mode of non-verbal communication. These issues are likely to lead to a communication breakdown, particularly in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders who may be cognitively impaired e.g. patients with schizophrenia.
Hence, healthcare providers can adopt simple strategies to enhance their communication and reduce communication breakdowns when interacting with patients. Here we present a few tips for healthcare providers to enhance their communication with their patients (adults) when wearing a mask.