N95 Respirator Sizing App Prototype
A group of EnMed students have developed a phone application that can scan an individual’s face to determine the best size N95 mask for them, ultimately reducing waste associated with trying on multiple sizes of masks.
As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly in spring 2020, a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks, soon followed. Currently, N95 respirators are the most protective available face coverings for health care workers, but most individuals have to try on several different sizes to determine the most effective fit for them. This trial-by-error sizing led some EnMed students to develop a phone application that can scan an individual’s face to determine the best sized mask for them, ultimately reducing waste associated with trying on multiple sizes of masks and throwing away the masks that do not fit. The students are currently recruiting health care workers at Houston Methodist Hospital to participate in a study to test the effectiveness of their application.
“Most health care workers currently determine their face mask size by starting with a size medium and sizing up or down from there based on comfort and efficacy,” said Zac Richards, second-year EnMed student and co-creator of the application. “This current system poses the risk of wasting masks if the wearer doesn’t fit the first mask they try on.”
Richards is part of a small group of EnMed students who developed the face-sizing application. He says that the group wanted to address the early pandemic PPE shortage they observed last year and already had some experience with coding and the biodesign process that they wanted to put to use.
Their study asks Houston Methodist employees for a photo of their face and their N95 size that has already been determined by fit testing. The application will analyze the photo to estimate their mask size and compare that estimate to their true size.
“Our app is intended to help health care systems waste less PPE while still retaining the high-quality standards of established fit testing,” Richards said. “If our program makes consistently accurate size recommendations, we’ll know that the application works like it should.”
While the supply of N95s has now stabilized, Richards says there is still potential for the app to help hospitals save money. On a larger scale, he says that eventually institutions could use the app to make decisions on quantities of each mask size to keep in inventory.
“While it’s not directly changing health care delivery, the app is emblematic of a shift to more personalized and portable tools in the clinical setting,” Richards said.
Richards is joined by fellow second-year EnMed students Darshil Choksi, Kenneth Sims, Brendan D’Souza and Mu’ath Adlouni as co-creators of the application. The students are hoping to recruit at least 100 health care workers for their study. EnMed students who have been fit tested are also able to participate. For more information on how to enroll in the study, contact Zac Richards.