Background Eye-tracking devices have been suggested as a means of improving communication and psychosocial status among patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). This study was undertaken to explore the psychosocial impact and communication effects of eye-tracking devices in the ICU. Methods A convenience sample of patients in the medical ICU, surgical ICU, and neurosciences critical care unit were enrolled prospectively. Patients participated in 5 guided sessions of 45 minutes each with the eye-tracking computer. After completion of the sessions, the Psychosocial Impact of Assistive Devices Scale (PIADS) was used to evaluate the device from the patient's perspective. Results All patients who participated in the study were able to communicate basic needs to nursing staff and family. Delirium as assessed by the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit was present in 4 patients at recruitment and none after training. The device's overall psychosocial impact ranged from neutral (-0.29) to strongly positive (2.76). Compared with the absence of intervention (0 = no change), patients exposed to eye-tracking computers demonstrated a positive mean overall impact score (PIADS = 1.30; P =.004). This finding was present in mean scores for each PIADS domain: competence = 1.26, adaptability = 1.60, and self-esteem = 1.02 (all P <.01). Conclusion There is a population of patients in the ICU whose psychosocial status, delirium, and communication ability may be enhanced by eye-tracking devices. These 3 outcomes are intertwined with ICU patient outcomes and indirectly suggest that eye-tracking devices might improve outcomes. A more in-depth exploration of the population to be targeted, the device's limitations, and the benefits of eye-tracking devices in the ICU is warranted.
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