Multisensory alarm to benefit alarm identification and decrease workload: a feasibility study

Derek Rios, Nuphar Katzman, Kendall J. Burdick, May Gellert, Jessica Klein, Yuval Bitan, Joseph J. Schlesinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The poor design of conventional auditory medical alarms has contributed to alarm desensitization, and eventually, alarm fatigue in medical personnel. This study tested a novel multisensory alarm system which aims to help medical personnel better interpret and respond to alarm annunciation during periods of high cognitive load such as those found within intensive care units. We tested a multisensory alarm that combined auditory and vibrotactile cues to convey alarm type, alarm priority, and patient identity. Testing was done in three phases: control (conventional auditory), Half (limited multisensory alarm), and Full (complete multisensory alarm). Participants (N = 19, undergraduates) identified alarm type, priority, and patient identity (patient 1 or 2) using conventional and multisensory alarms, while simultaneously completing a cognitively demanding task. Performance was based on reaction time (RT) and identification accuracy of alarm type and priority. Participants also reported their perceived workload. RT was significantly faster for the Control phase (p < 0.05). Participant performance in identifying alarm type, priority, and patient did not differ significantly between the three phase conditions (p = 0.87, 0.37, and 0.14 respectively). The Half multisensory phase produced the lowest mental demand, temporal demand, and overall perceived workload score. These data suggest that implementation of a multisensory alarm with alarm and patient information may decrease perceived workload without significant changes in alarm identification performance. Additionally, a ceiling effect may exist for multisensory stimuli, with only part of an alarm benefitting from multisensory integration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1059
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • Alarm fatigue
  • Alarms
  • Multisensory alarms
  • Vibrotactile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Health Informatics


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