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Smart alarm sounds for healthcare

In a collaboration with the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Piteå Älvdals Hospital, RISE Interactive (previously called Interactive Institute) researched the needs of the personnel and designed new alarm sounds for the control centre where patients vital data points are being monitored.

The design process was centered around the needs and wants of the nurses and doctors. Through a series of workshops, observations and usability tests, the identified problem was characterized by a large amount of so called ”attention alarms”, as well as a sound environment that was perceived as noisy and stressful. 

In contrast to control panels in other centrals – for instance industrial control rooms, where the problems often can be solved at the computer screen – the hospital staff always solve the problem elsewhere; most often by the patient. By guiding the nurses directly to the patient, through the use of informative och pleasant alarm sounds, we can have a positive impact on the work environment for the staff and the healthcare experience for patients and their relatives.

User-centered process

In Piteå, ICU patients are divided into one of four categories: ICU, HIC (Heart Intensive Care), Post-op. (wake up after planned surgery) or Telemetry (patients whose EKG’s are remotely monitored). Though the daily work for the nurses is highly collaborative, they work in teams dividing responsibility between the different categories. 

This helped shape the design of the new alarms. The result was a set of variants for new, smart alarm sounds that was tested over two weeks in the monitoring central. The sounds aim to provide a less stressful work environment while at the same time guide the hospital staff directly to the patient. The sounds and the findings of the study form the basis for a long-term work aimed at enhancing the alarm sounds and sound environment in hospitals.


Project name

Smart alarm sounds for healthcare




Region Norrbotten

RISE role in project


Project start




Intensive Care Unit

Project members

Anna Sirkka

Contact person

Anna Sirkka


Read more about Anna

Contact Anna
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