New study shows impact of mask wearing on patient trust and
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A first-of-its-kind study out today in JAMA Surgery suggests that patients have a more difficult time understanding and building trust with their surgeons when they cannot see the surgeon's entire face due to masking requirements. These findings have major implications for not only how surgeons are viewed and rated by their patients, but also how well a patient does during and after a surgical procedure.

The study objective was to evaluate the effects of clear vs standard covered masks on communication during surgical clinic encounters.

This randomized clinical trial examined communication between surgeons and their patients when surgeons wore clear vs covered masks in surgical outpatient clinics.

200 patients were enrolled from 15 surgeons’ clinics spanning 7 subspecialties. When surgeons wore a clear mask, patients rated their surgeons higher for providing understandable explanations, demonstrating empathy, and building trust. Patients preferred clear masks, citing improved surgeon communication and appreciation for visualization of the face. Conversely, 8 of 15 surgeons were unlikely to choose the clear mask over their standard covered mask.

Conclusively, this randomized clinical trial demonstrates that patients prefer to see their surgeon’s face. Surgeons who wore clear masks were perceived by patients to be better communicators, have more empathy, and elicit greater trust. Because masks will remain part of the health care landscape for some time, deliberate attention to preserving communication within the surgeon-patient relationship is warranted.