Hmcare has developed the HelloMask, a transparent surgical mask that aims to allow healthcare workers to communicate more naturally with patients.
On Tuesday (9 July), Geneva-based start-up Hmcare announced that it has raised 1m Swiss Francs ($1.05m) in funding to produce its HelloMask, which is a fully transparent surgical mask.
The Swiss start-up said that the HelloMask will help meet a critical healthcare need for better verbal and non-verbal communication in medical settings, reducing the “fear and stress” caused by anonymity of carers wearing personal protective equipment.
HelloMask allows the wearer’s face and expressions to be completely visible, while providing breathability and protection from pathogens, the company said. It hopes the mask will help build empathy and wellbeing through emotional connection.
The start-up was founded by Diane Baatard, Thierry Pelet, Klaus Schönenberger and Sacha Pierre Sidjanski.
Baatard saw a need for a transparent mask while working as a storyteller for hospitalised children, and Schönenberger saw a similar need when treating patients during the western Africa Ebola outbreak in 2015.
Different use cases
Hmcare initially planned to use the mask in clinical settings with children and the elderly in mind, but said that the Covid-19 pandemic and other recent health crises such as Ebola have underlined the “urgent need” for a transparent mask.
The HelloMask could also make it easier for medical professionals to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing patients who depend on lip reading, as well as having the potential for wider use by the public.
The mask was developed using technology created by Switzerland’s Empa materials science lab and the EssentialTech Centre at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). It’s a single-use mask designed as a Class 1 medical device, and it is almost completely biodegradable.
Pelet, who is CEO of Hmcare, said: “We’ve had significant interest in HelloMask already from people and institutions in different walks of life. Empathy and trust are proven to have a positive impact on a patient’s wellbeing and recovery. A smile and a look can often speak more powerfully than words. HelloMask makes that possible.”
With the fresh funding, the start-up hopes to get its masks into production and on the market by early 2021. This will involve establishing industrial partners and developing the manufacturing process and production certification. Hmcare will partner with the Geneva University Hospitals for the clinical testing of prototypes.