Wandering Eyes: Using Gaze-Tracking Technology to Capture Eye Fixation in Unfamiliar Indoor Healthcare Environments

Presented by: Dr. Hessam Ghamari, Madeline McKenzie, Sarah Dickert

This study will objectively identify and rank visual environment elements in hospitals that attract gaze fixation during wayfinding. This main objective of this study was to identify elements of the designed environment that attract eye fixation during wayfinding, by objectively tracking eye movements and fixation as healthy subjects navigate through a complex healthcare setting. EyeGuide® - Mobile Tracking Technology was used to capture data on gaze-fixation. Literature shows that disorientation due to wayfinding errors and navigation problems in healthcare facilities produce frustration, irritation, anxiety, and stress (Rousek & Hallbeck, 2011; Cooper, 2008; Grant, 2002). It represents a critical concern for patients, employees, and healthcare organizations, thereby affecting both processes (efficiency and safety) and people. Recently, Pati et al.,(2015), identified environmental attributes that affect wayfinding behavior in navigating healthcare environments. Ghamari et al., (2014) conducted a similar study in an educational facility and using the same sequential navigation task for the human subjects. The current study used eye-tracking technology, to capture physical design elements attracting human gaze during navigation in Watauga Medical Center. The sequence of the destinations was randomized for participants. Twenty-four adult subjects in different age groups (young, middle age, and elderly) and both genders were asked to navigate five different routes. The eye-fixations on different visual environmental attributes were recorded and measured by Eye-Guide Analyze software. The time durations of each navigation tasks were also measured. Data analyses were conducted by using different descriptive and inferential statistical tools such as T-test, ANOVA, and Friedman test. The results of this study suggested that identifying signs, architectural features, informational signs, maps, and directional signs constitute the main environmental attributes that attract the attention of users. In total, signs constitute the major environmental information source among all classes of environmental cues, covering 54% of the time subjects sought information from the ambient environment. The results of the study also showed that architectural features (14.2%) and maps (8.4%) were the two other major environmental attributes that attracted gaze fixation. Other design elements (7.9%), interior elements pairing (5.3%), functional clusters (3.4%), and furniture (2.6%) covered the rest of the total time of eye-fixations. Additionally, the results showed that there is a significant difference between males and females on the time of navigation. Males were faster than females in navigation. The results also showed that young age group had the fastest navigation performance among the age groups. The findings provide triangulation data for previous studies, and were consistent with the earlier behavioral studies, thereby contributing to a robust set of empirical findings on wayfinding and building design. This session will present key study findings and discuss its implications for healthcare design.


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