Seeing faces, when faces can't be seen: Wearing portrait photos has a positive effect on how patients perceive medical staff when face masks have to be worn

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • Martin Wiesmann
  • Christiane Franz
  • Thorsten Sichtermann
  • Jan Minkenberg
  • Nathalie Mathern
  • Andrea Stockero
  • Elene Iordanishvili
  • Jessica Freiherr
  • Julian Hodson
  • Ute Habel
  • Omid Nikoubashman

Introduction Since the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, wearing surgical face masks has become mandatory for healthcare staff in many countries when interacting with patients. Recently, it has been shown that wearing face masks impairs social interaction by diminishing a person's ability to read the emotion of their counterparts, an essential prerequisite to respond adequately in social situations. It is easily conceivable that this may have a tangible negative influence on the communication and relationship between patients and healthcare personnel. We therefore investigated whether it has an effect on how patients perceive healthcare professionals when physicians and nursing staff wear portrait photos with their smiling faces in addition to face masks. Methods During the study period of 16 days, the medical staff of our Department wore surgical face masks at all times during any kind of interaction with patients. In a pseudorandomized order, all members of our staff additionally affixed their portrait photos to their work clothes on 8 of the 16 days. After completion of their visit, 226 patients were interviewed anonymously in a cross-sectional study design using a questionnaire in which they rated the following three items: Friendliness of staff, medical quality of treatment, and how well they felt taken care of during treatment in our Department. Results On days, on which staff wore photos, mean scores of the questionnaires were significantly higher than on non-photo days (p = 0.013; mean ± standard deviation = 92.8 ± 11.3 vs. 91.0 ± 12.6; median (range) = 97 (98) vs. 96 (76)). When analyzed separately, the increased scores were only significant for the item friendliness of staff (p = 0.009; mean ± standard deviation = 95.8 ± 6.3 vs. 92.2 ± 11.5; median (range) = 98 (39) vs. 97 (54)). Conclusion Our study suggests that the use of portrait photos with smiling faces has a positive effect on how patients perceive healthcare staff.

ZeitschriftPLoS ONE
Anzahl der Seiten9
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 19.05.2021