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Minerva Anestesiologica 2013 February;79(2):165-75


language: English

Gaze-controlled, computer-assisted communication in Intensive Care Unit: “speaking through the eyes”

Maringelli F. 1, 2, Brienza N. 3, Scorrano F. 4, Grasso F. 4, Gregoretti C. 5

1 Anthea Hospital, GVM Care and Research, Bari, Italy; 2 Città di Lecce Hospital, GVM Care and Research, Lecce, Italy; 3 Intensive Care Unit, Department of Emergency and Organ Transplantation, University “Aldo Moro”, Bari, Italy; 4 Intensive Care Unit, V. Fazzi Hospital, Lecce, Italy; 5Department of Emergency, M. Adelaide Hospital, Turin, Italy


Background: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that a gaze-controlled communication system (eye tracker, ET) can improve communication processes between completely dysarthric ICU patients and the hospital staff, in three main domains: 1) basic communication processes (i.e., fundamental needs, desire, and wishes); 2) the ability of the medical staff to understand the clinical condition of the patient; and 3) the level of frustration experienced by patient, nurses and physicians.
Methods: Fifteen fully conscious medical and surgical patients, 8 physicians, and 15 nurses were included in the study. The experimental procedure was composed by three phases: in phase 1 all groups completed the preintervention questionnaire; in phase 2 the ET was introduced and tested as a communication device; in phase 3 all groups completed the postintervention questionnaire.
Results: Patients preintervention questionnaires showed remarkable communication deficits, without any group effect. Answers of physicians and nurses were pretty much similar to the one of patients. Postintervention questionnaires showed in all groups a remarkable and statistically significant improvement in different communication domains, as well as a remarkable decrease of anxiety and disphoric thought. Improvement was also reported by physicians and nurses in their ability to understand patient’s clinical conditions.
Conclusion: Our results show an improvement in the quality of the examined parameters. Better communication processes seem also to lead to improvements in several psychological parameters, namely anxiety and drop-out depression perceived by both patients and medical staff. Further controlled studies are needed to define the ET role in ICU.

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