AlarmVR: Investigating Alarm Fatigue in Clinical Environments Using Immersive Audio and Virtual Reality
Extended exposure to alarm sounds in clinical environments can cause clinicians to become desensitized to alarm events. This is due to a form of perceptual overload called “alarm fatigue”, which can lead to many patient safety risks linked to unattended symptoms. Efforts to address alarm fatigue include the implementation of new computational methods to eliminate nuisance (i.e. false-positive) alarms, the standardization of patient care processes, and the training of healthcare professionals on efficient uses of monitoring systems. Despite these efforts, alarm fatigue remains a major patient safety hazard. On the other hand, perceptual factors that contribute to alarm fatigue, which itself is a perceptual phenomenon, are relatively understudied. In this project, we propose AlarmVR as a platform to investigate auditory cognitive factors that can lead to alarm fatigue, and to evaluate new alarm designs informed by these factors. We will use photogrammetry, room-scale virtual reality and immersive audio to create a realistic and customizable virtual clinic, where we will conduct studies using existing and hypothetical alarm sounds. These studies will not only help us assess existing theories on the impact of auditory factors on alarm fatigue but provide us with acoustic parameter spaces for the design of new alarm sounds. This project will also yield a new immersive simulation platform for instruction and research in healthcare.