Towards reducing alarm fatigue: peripheral light pattern design for critical care alarms

Vanessa Cobus, Hannah Meyer, Swamy Ananthanarayan, Susanne Boll, Wilko Heuten

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Everyone who has visited a patient in an intensive care unit will still remember the constant noise emitted from a number of highly sophisticated technical systems. For critical care nurses this creates a working environment in which about 350 alarms per patient are issued and each care taker is responsible for several patients at the same time. Alarm fatigue is a known effect in this demanding working environment which means a desensitization as well as a delayed response time for alarms. This can have severe consequences not only for the patients, but finally also for the care takers. To counteract the acoustic load on intensive care units, we explored light as a stimulus modality to display alarms in the user's peripheral vision using a head-mounted display. In a participatory design study, we developed several light patterns to represent three urgency categories. Under task conditions that mimic the load of care tasks, we evaluated the perceptibility and suitability of light alarm patterns. Our results show that peripheral light alarms are a promising approach to alert the user and our patterns can convey different levels of urgency.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 10th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction
EditorsGerd Berget
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450364379
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventNorwegian Computer Human Interaction 2018 - Oslo, Norway
Duration: 1 Oct 20183 Oct 2018
Conference number: 10th (Website) (Proceedings) (Website)


ConferenceNorwegian Computer Human Interaction 2018
Abbreviated titleNordiCHI 2018
Internet address


  • Critical care
  • Head-mounted display
  • Human-centered design
  • Safety-critical systems
  • Wearable alarm system

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