Eye tracking in healthcare

Eye tracking plays a vital role in the detection and treatment of some of the world’s most prevalent diseases. It provides a means to control medical devices without making them more complex. It has been a ground-breaking technology in AAC, providing a means of communication for people with disabilities.   

Early adopter of eye tracking

The rapid adoption of eye tracking by the healthcare industry has resulted in an innovative generation of medical systems and several revolutionary advancements in areas such as early and unbiased detection and treatment of diseases.

Eye tracking enables new features in conventional medical devices and is a catalyst for the creation of new machines and applications that simply aren’t feasible without this technology. Features that, for example, improve working conditions by promoting safety and wellness, enhance workflows, and lay the foundation for additional security measures.

Eye tracking can be used as a performance enhancer. Through foveation technologies, device manufacturers and developers can use eye tracking to reduce rendering loads, data transport, and even other resources such as X-rays.

In short, eye tracking enables innovative solutions that help improve patient outcomes, as well as quality-of-life for both patients and clinical staff. 

Primarily, eye tracking applies to three areas of healthcare:

  • Assessment and therapy where eye tracking has been a catalyst in the development of tools for brain and behavioral health, reading and learning, as well as vision and ocular disorders.
  • Medical technology including the control of surgical robots, diagnostic imaging equipment, and other medical displays 
  • Assistive technology including communication and access devices, as well as vision aids.

Find out more about how eye tracking is a catalyst for innovation in Session #1 of our webinar series Eye tracking — an innovation catalyst for healthcare.

Session #1: Eye tracking 101

Assessment and therapy

Assessment and therapy

Medical research has highlighted the significance of eye movement patterns in the detection and treatment of some of the world’s most prevalent diseases.

Catalyst for innovation

Eye movements are a biomarker for traumatic brain injuries such as concussions, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as learning disabilities like dyslexia. The ability to leverage eye behavior is particularly beneficial in the detection and treatment of autism and similar disorders.

Innovative and non-invasive solutions for the detection and treatment of visual and ocular diseases and conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), glaucoma, and dry eye can leverage eye tracking data

Several medical device manufacturers have leveraged Tobii’s technology in the development of objective assessment tools. Using tablet-like devices to capture eye movement, these solutions are non-invasive, deliver consistent data-driven test results, and provide therapeutic capabilities. Such solutions are particularly useful in the assessment of people who are unable to express themselves and for infants and children where early intervention is desirable.

 

Testing and therapy methods that leverage eye tracking tend to be non-invasive, making the experience more comfortable for patients, and eliminating the bias and errors of manual observation. The mobility of such solutions allows practitioners to serve people in remote locations as well as those who may not be able to travel.

Eye tracking data can be used to assess whether a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A simple eye test is a quick and objective way to determine if a person is impaired without having to collect fluid samples or other invasive measures.

Find out more about how eye tracking is a catalyst for innovation in Session #2 of our webinar series Eye tracking — an innovation catalyst for healthcare

Session #2: The future of medical assessments and treatment

Medical Technology

Medical Technology

Devices and machines that include eye tracking enable developers to build innovative applications, that can enhance workflow, facilitate skills transfer, provide additional security, promote safety and wellness, as well as raise computing and resource efficiency.

Enhance workflow

Eye tracking adds a new input method to the user interface without adding yet another peripheral or controller. It enables people to use their eyes to control objects. By embedding eye tracking in a surgical workspace, the user can, for example, control robots, pan and scroll, as well as select objects with their eye movements — allowing them to keep their hands on the controls and their attention on the patient.

Eye tracking can provide automation capabilities for repetitive QA tasks, alleviating workload in busy and stressful environments. An application could leverage eye tracking to automatically ensure that a clinician checks certain diagnostic information according to a schedule. Eye tracking can ensure that a person looks at a particular data point on the screen, and the application could display reminders when checks are overdue.

The point where a person is looking or events and objects that grab their attention can provide valuable insight. For example, in surgery, combining the surgeon’s gaze with camera feeds and other diagnostics creates augmented content— that can facilitate communication among clinical staff in the theater as well as enhance understanding for real-time observers watching a procedure from elsewhere.

The point where a person is looking or events and objects that grab their attention can provide valuable insight. For example, in surgery, combining the surgeon’s gaze with camera feeds and other diagnostics creates augmented content— that can facilitate communication among clinical staff in the theater as well as enhance understanding for real-time observers watching a procedure from elsewhere.

Find out more about how eye tracking enhances workflows, in our white paper, Why next-generation surgical systems will include eye tracking.

Facilitate skills transfer

Experienced clinical staff possess years of formal training as well as on-the-job know-how. As people become proficient in their fields, learning becomes intuitive — by doing, by making mistakes, and by devising best practices. This type of on-the-job know-how makes experienced staff highly valuable. It is also one of the hardest skills to transfer.

Instructional videos are an effective way of transferring skills from specialists to trainees.  In much the same way that combining the surgeon’s gaze with camera feeds and other diagnostics provides useful insights during a procedure, the recordings can be reused in tutorials. If the surgeon can provide a narration, pointing out observations and describing their actions, the result is a valuable training asset — a powerful tool to transfer mechanical, subconscious, and hard-to-articulate skills.

An application can leverage eye tracking data to generate heatmaps and gaze plots of a surgeon’s eye movements during a procedure. Such content may be interesting for trainees and observers as it provides an overview of the surgeon’s focus during an operation.

Provide additional security

Upholding the integrity and privacy of patient data is a fundamental praxis in hospitals and clinics. State-of-the-art protection for devices and data systems and strict routines ensure that access to information is on a need-to-know basis. With eye tracking, innovative and convenient security features can be created. 

For example, authentication procedures can use eye tracking to identify a person, replacing vulnerable and cumbersome access technologies that rely on logins and keycards with a touchless biometric solution that is simple to use, hygienic, and facilitates device-sharing. As such, eye tracking can replace physical and logical identification tools such as ID cards and passwords that are prone to theft and often misplaced.

It is possible to use eye tracking data to determine presence and attention.  If, for example, a clinical staff member looks away from a patient terminal, eye tracking can enable screen-blur — protecting the data displayed until the person returns their focus to the screen. Eye tracking can immediately detect when a person walks away from a workstation, enabling a security application to take appropriate action, such as logging the user out of the system. Eye tracking can also prevent tailgating by blurring the screen’s contents if it detects a second pair of eyes fixating on the screen.

Promote safety and wellness

The health and wellbeing of patients and staff is a primary concern of every health service. Devices equipped with eye tracking provide organizations with tools to ease stress, reduce repetitive physical actions, and address other job hazards.

For example, limiting the area photographed by a C-arm X-ray machine to just the surgeon’s gaze region reduces radiation exposure for both patients and clinical staff.

Interactive features built on eye movement relieve workloads on busy hands and improve ergonomics—helping to extend the careers of people who perform demanding and repetitive tasks.

Eye activity reflects user fatigue, drowsiness, and low concentration. An application can alert or cease operation if the operator is unfit.

Eye tracking data includes ergonomic measurements such as screen time, user position, and distance to the screen. An application can leverage this information to provide statistics and reminders to move or take a break.

Hospital information and automated check-in kiosks can benefit from eye tracking. Eye tracking allows users to interact with such a device, make selections, and find information in a touchless manner using their eye movements—minimizing the spread of germs.

Discover how ControlRad, a medical device maker, has embedded eye tracking in its C-arm X-ray systems to lower radiation exposure for clinical staff and patients.

Raise computing and resource efficiency

Especially useful for mobile and tethered devices, eye tracking can improve battery life by reducing CPU loads. For example, by sensing whether or not a person is in front of the machine, and more explicitly, if they are looking at the screen or elsewhere, eye tracking can enable automatic dimming and sleep cycles with rapid wake-up.

Especially useful for mobile and tethered devices, eye tracking can improve battery life by reducing CPU loads. For example, by sensing whether or not a person is in front of the machine, and more explicitly, if they are looking at the screen or elsewhere, eye tracking can enable automatic dimming and sleep cycles with rapid wake-up.

Eye tracking can improve image quality without additional computational resources. By mimicking human vision, foveation removes the need to fully render an entire image, reducing the hi-res portion to just the area where the user is looking—dramatically reducing rendering time and resources without any perceived loss in image quality. When applied to devices such as virtual and augmented-reality headsets, foveation allows users to see content correctly, reducing nausea and fatigue, making these tools applicable to a broader audience.

Eye tracking supports operational efficiency with other critical resources. Using the surgeon’s gaze to control an X-ray machine is a perfect example, because it not only limits radiation exposure, it also ensures optimal usage of computational resources.

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Augmented, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices that support the aging and people with disabilities often rely on eye tracking to enable users to interact. 

Assistive technology

Eye tracking provides a means to control a device that is useful for people who cannot use their voice or hands — temporarily or permanently. Such devices can generate speech, connect to the internet as well as other devices, and often include applications for writing, drawing, and creating music. They play a fundamental role in promoting independence by helping people with disabilities to perform daily activities.

For people with low vision, eye tracking is a beneficial addition to wearable visual aids that help with reading and interacting with computers as well as other assistive devicesBy calculating what the user is looking at on the screen, eye tracking provides the information needed to magnify the right content without the need for additional sliders or pointers. By providing touchless interaction, eye tracking also supports people with physical disabilities to interact with a device.

Discover how eye tracking is essential in assistive technologies for Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) — giving everyone a voice.

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Our aim is to provide you with the technology and expertise to integrate eye tracking in your products and solutions. Together, we can create a world where technology works in harmony with natural human behavior.

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