Vibrotactile display technology represents an innovative method to communicate vital information on patients from physiological monitoring devices to clinicians. The increasing number of sensors used in clinical practice has increased the amount of information required to be communicated, overwhelming the capacity of visual and auditory displays. The capacity to communicate could be increased with the use of a tactile display. In this study, we have compared a dorsal (DTD) and belt tactile (TB) display prototype in terms of learnability, error rate, and efficiency.Methods.
We conducted a prospective randomized preclinical study with non-clinicians in a simulated clinical setting to compare the two tactile display prototypes. Information encoded in the tactile message included the type of physiological parameter monitored, the direction of change, and the magnitude of change. Following a period of training, 24 alerts were repeated three times for each display in random order. Each subject evaluated each display. Experiments were repeated with the addition of a distraction task.Results.
DTD stimuli were easier to learn (52 trials compared to 101 trials; P = 0.0003), but the accuracy in decoding following training did not differ between the two prototypes. The DTD took longer to display the information, resulting in a faster TB response time (start of stimulus to response; 9.3 ± 1.4 s [mean ± SD] vs. DTD, 10.0 ± 1.4 s; F[1,27] = 4.66; P = 0.04). However, the DTD had a faster response interval (end of stimulus to response) compared to the TB (5.6 ± 1.4 s vs. 8.0 ± 1.4 s; F[1,27] = 47.91; P < 0.0001). Compared to the TB, performance was affected less by distraction with the DTD.Conclusions.
The communication of information on physiological parameters by tactile displays was easy to learn and accurate for both prototypes. The DTD was easier to learn and affected less by distraction. Further evaluation is required in a clinical setting with expert users to determine the clinical applicability of these prototypes.