Accurate interpretation of a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) demands high levels of skill and expertise. Early training in medical school plays an important role in building the ECG interpretation skill. Thus, understanding how medical students perform the task of interpretation is important for improving this skill. We aimed to use eye tracking as a tool to research how eye fixation can be used to gain a deeper understanding of how medical students interpret ECGs. In total, 16 medical students were recruited to interpret 10 different ECGs each. Their eye movements were recorded using an eye tracker. Fixation heatmaps of where the students looked were generated from the collected data set. Statistical analysis was conducted on the fixation count and duration using the Mann-Whitney U test and the Kruskal-Wallis test. The average percentage of correct interpretations was 55.63%, with an SD of 4.63%. After analyzing the average fixation duration, we found that medical students study the three lower leads (rhythm strips) the most using a top-down approach: lead II (mean=2727 ms, SD=456), followed by leads V1 (mean=1476 ms, SD=320) and V5 (mean=1301 ms, SD=236). We also found that medical students develop a personal system of interpretation that adapts to the nature and complexity of the diagnosis. In addition, we found that medical students consider some leads as their guiding point toward finding a hint leading to the correct interpretation. The use of eye tracking successfully provides a quantitative explanation of how medical students learn to interpret a 12-lead ECG.

This study employs screen-based Eye Tracking, which is fully integrated into the iMotions software suite. To learn more please visit our dedicated product page, or download our complete guide on Eye Tracking below:

Download brochure on screen-based eye tracking