The Impact of Head-Worn Displays on Strategic Alarm Management and Situation Awareness

Michael T. Pascale, Penelope Sanderson, David Liu, Ismail Mohamed, Birgit Brecknell, Robert G. Loeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate whether head-worn displays (HWDs) help mobile participants make better alarm management decisions and achieve better situation awareness than alarms alone. Background: Patient alarms occur frequently in hospitals but often do not require clinical intervention. Clinicians may become desensitized to alarms and fail to respond to clinically relevant alarms. HWDs could make patient information continuously accessible, support situation awareness, and help clinicians prioritize alarms. Method: Experiment 1 (n = 76) tested whether nonclinicians monitoring simulated patients benefited from vital sign information continuously displayed on an HWD while they performed a secondary calculation task. Experiment 2 (n = 13) tested, across three separate experimental sessions, how effectively nursing trainees monitored simulated patients’ vital signs under three different display conditions while they assessed a simulated patient. Results: In Experiment 1, participants who had access to continuous patient information on an HWD responded to clinically important alarms 25.9% faster and were 6.7 times less likely to miss alarms compared to participants who only heard alarms. In Experiment 2, participants using an HWD answered situation awareness questions 18.9% more accurately overall than when they used alarms only. However, the effect was significant in only two of the three experimental sessions. Conclusion: HWDs may help users maintain continuous awareness of multiple remote processes without affecting their performance on ongoing tasks. Application: The outcomes may apply to contexts where access to continuous streams of information from remote locations is useful, such as patient monitoring or clinical supervision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-563
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • alarm fatigue
  • alarms
  • divided attention
  • head-worn displays
  • monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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