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Ethical Considerations When Using a Mobile Eye Tracker in a Patient-Facing Area: Lessons from an Intensive Care Unit Observational Protocol

ABSTRACT This article describes the process of designing, approving, and conducting an investigator-initiated protocol to use an eye-tracking device in a health care setting. Participants wore the device, similar to eyeglasses, in a front-facing manner in an intensive care unit for the study of personnel gaze patterns, producing a visual record of workflow. While the data of interest for our study was not specifically the health information protected by the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a wide variety of such data was captured by the eye-tracking device, and the prospective consent of all people who might have been incidentally videotaped was not feasible. The protocol therefore required attention to unique ethical considerations—including consent, privacy and confidentiality, HIPAA compliance, institutional liability, and the use of secondary data. The richness of eye-tracker data suggests various beneficial applications in health care occupational research and quality improvement. Therefore, sharing our study’s successful design and execution, including proactive researcher-institutional review board communication, can inform and encourage similarly valuable, ethical, and innovative audiovisual research techniques.

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