Continuous monitoring of the vital signs of critical care patients is an essential component of critical care medicine. For this task, clinicians use a patient monitor (PM), which conveys patient vital sign data through a screen and an auditory alarm system. Some limitations with PMs have been identified in the literature, such as the need for visual contact with the PM screen, which could result in reduced focus on the patient in specific scenarios, and the amount of noise generated by the PM alarm system. With the advancement of material science and electronic technology, wearable devices have emerged as a potential solution for these problems. This review presents the findings of several studies that focused on the usability and human factors of wearable devices designed for use in critical care patient monitoring.
The aim of this study is to review the current state of the art in wearable devices intended for use by clinicians to monitor vital signs of critical care patients in hospital settings, with a focus on the usability and human factors of the devices.
A comprehensive literature search of relevant databases was conducted, and 20 studies were identified and critically reviewed by the authors.
We identified 3 types of wearable devices: tactile, head-mounted, and smartwatch displays. In most cases, these devices were intended for use by anesthesiologists, but nurses and surgeons were also identified as potentially important users of wearable technology in critical care medicine. Although the studies investigating tactile displays revealed their potential to improve clinical monitoring, usability problems related to comfort need to be overcome before they can be considered suitable for use in clinical practice. Only a few studies investigated the usability and human factors of tactile displays by conducting user testing involving critical care professionals. The studies of head-mounted displays (HMDs) revealed that these devices could be useful in critical care medicine, particularly from an ergonomics point of view. By reducing the amount of time the user spends averting their gaze from the patient to a separate screen, HMDs enable clinicians to improve their patient focus and reduce the potential of repetitive strain injury.
Researchers and designers of new wearable devices for use in critical care medicine should strive to achieve not only enhanced performance but also enhanced user experience for their users, especially in terms of comfort and ease of use. These aspects of wearable displays must be extensively tested with the intended end users in a setting that properly reflects the intended context of use before their adoption can be considered in clinical settings.