Modern consumer electronic devices and automobiles are often controlled by interfaces that sense physical gestures and spoken commands. In contrast, patient monitors and anesthesia devices are typically equipped with panel-mounted buttons, dials, and keyboards. The increased use of noncontact gesture-based interfaces in anesthesia may improve patient safety through more intuitive and prompter control of equipment and also through reduced rates of surface contamination. A novel gesture-based controller was designed and retrofitted to a standard GE Solar 8000M patient monitor. This type of technical innovation is rare, due to closely held proprietary input control systems on commercially produced clinical equipment. Nevertheless, we hypothesized that anesthesiologists would find a contactless gesture interface straightforward to use.
A gesture-based interface system was developed to control a Solar 8000M patient monitor using a millimeter-wave radar sensor. The system was programmed to detect noncontact “rotate” and “press” gestures to control the patient monitor by implementing a virtual trim knob for interface control. Fifty anesthesiologists tested a prototype interface and evaluated usability by completing a short questionnaire incorporating modified Likert scales. These evaluations were performed in a nonpatient care environment so that respondents were not adversely task loaded during assessment, also allaying any ethical or safety concerns regarding use of this novel interface for patient management.
Anesthesia hardware was controlled reliably with 2 distinct gestures above the gesture sensor. The gesture-based interface generally was well received by anesthesiologists (8.09; confidence interval, 8.06–8.12 on a 10-point scale), who preferred the simpler “press” gesture to the “rotate” gesture (8.45; 8.39–8.51 vs 7.73; 7.67–7.79 on a 10-point scale; P = .005). The correlation between the preference scores for the 2 gestures from each anesthesiologist was strong (Pearson r = 0.49; 0.25–0.68; P < .001). Advancing level of training (resident, fellow, attending 1–10 years, attending >10 years) was not correlated with preference scores for either gesture (Spearman ρ = −0.02; −0.30 to 0.26; P = .87 for “press” and Spearman ρ = 0.08; −0.20 to 0.35; P = .58 for “rotate”).
The use of gesture sensing for controlling anesthesia equipment was well received by a cohort of anesthesiologists. Even though the simpler “press” gesture was preferred over the “rotate” gesture, the intrarespondent correlation indicates that the preference for gestures as a whole is the stronger effect. No adverse relationship was found between acceptability and anesthesia experience level. Gesture sensing is a promising new area to simplify and improve the interaction between the anesthesiologist and the anesthesia workstation.