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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the largest private healthcare systems in the United States came to IDEO to help solve a challenge facing frontline healthcare workers in nursing homes. An increased demand for N-95 face masks meant that fit test hoods, wearable head coverings used to test the effectiveness of masks, were sold out across the globe, making it impossible for frontline staff to be confident in the security of their personal protective equipment (PPE).

Fit test hoods are meant to trap aerosolized spray near the subject’s face; they don’t need to be air-tight, but they do need to be made of material that is durable and easy to clean. They also need to be large enough that the tester could easily move their head and neck while wearing an N-95 mask to check for fit in many body positions.

Keeping purpose and urgency in mind, IDEO designers quickly started to sketch prototypes, drawing inspiration from easily accessible household items such as laundry baskets, buckets, and outdoor grill covers.

In less than a week, the team defined a set of requirements, methods, materials, and a design to fill the immediate need for a substitute hood.

The fit test hoods, as well as detailed instructions for how to make them, have been distributed and used by senior living facilities across the United States.

While fit test hoods are still sold out across the globe, you can download these fit test hood prototype instructions for ensuring N-95 respirator security.

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