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Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 353–363 | Cite as

A New Paradigm for the Design of Audible Alarms that Convey Urgency Information

  • Richard R. McNeer
  • Jorge Bohórquez
  • Özcan Özdamar
  • Albert J. Varon
  • Paul Barach
Article

Abstract

Objective

The current international standard (IEC 60601-1-8) stipulates that medical device audible alarms should be priority-encoded and validated for efficacy. Evidence suggests that the melodic alarms described in the standard are not functioning as originally intended. We present a multi-disciplinary, human factors paradigm for audible alarm development whereby urgency information is encoded via modulation of the physical characteristics of sounds. We also test the feasibility of this approach using information measures.

Methods

We designed series of experimental sounds that varied along controlled physical and acoustical dimensions. Subjects rated these sound series for perceived urgency. Based on these ratings, selected sounds from each series were assigned a␣priority category from ‹low’ to ‹high’ – we call these resulting sets of sounds ‹urgency-codecs’. The method of categorical judgments (based on information theory) was used to compare each urgency-codec for ability to convey urgency information.

Results

Subjects were consistent in their ratings of the three series of experimental sounds for perceived urgency. The urgency data pertaining to one of the series (harmonic interval) was successfully fit to a psychophysical empirical law. The urgency-codec derived from another sound series (melodic interval) was found to have the highest signal (correct interpretation of urgency level by subjects) transmission rate.

Conclusions

The proposed paradigm is feasible, and it offers an evidence-based strategy for alarm sound design and testing. This approach would be performed before implementation of new alarm sounds in clinical settings, and should result in development of alarm sounds that satisfy the requirements of priority-encoding and validation.

Keywords

alarm sounds alarms urgency urgency matching urgency mismatch anesthesia monitoring medical monitoring medical device human factors standardization 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard R. McNeer
    • 1
  • Jorge Bohórquez
    • 2
  • Özcan Özdamar
    • 2
  • Albert J. Varon
    • 1
  • Paul Barach
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Trauma Anesthesia & Critical Care, Department of Anesthesiology, School of MedicineUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of EngineeringUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  4. 4.University of UtrechtUtrechtNetherlands

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