Impact of an educational intervention on eye gaze behaviour in retinal image interpretation by Consultant and Trainee Ophthalmologists

Kate Shirley, Michael Williams, Laura McLaughlin, Nicola Parker, RR Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


This study uses eye-tracking technology to assess the differences in gaze behaviours between ophthalmologists of different experience levels while interpreting retinal images of diabetic retinopathy. The differences in gaze behaviours before and after a teaching intervention which introduced a suggested search strategy is also investigated. A total of 9 trainees and 10 consultant ophthalmologists interpreted six retinal images. They were then shown a 5-min tutorial that demonstrated a search strategy. This was followed by six further retinal image interpretations. Participants completed questionnaires indicating clinical signs seen, appropriate retinopathy grade, and confidence. Eye movements were tracked during each interpretation.Overall, trainees compared to consultants demonstrated more uncertain and unstructured gaze behaviours. Trainee eye gaze metrics included: longer interpretation time, 36.5 s (SD = 6.2 vs. 31.4 s) (SD = 4.2) (p = 0.024), higher visit count, 17.38 visits (SD = 5.13) versus 12.18 visits(SD = 2.64) (p = 0.01), higher proportion of fixation, 57.0 per cent (SD = 5) versus 50.5 per cent (SD = 5) (p = 0.05) and shorter time to first fixation, 0.232 s (SD = 0.10) versus 0.821 s (SD = 0.77) (p = 0.001), respectively. The teaching intervention resulted in more focused gaze patterns in both groups. Pre-intervention and post-intervention mean proportion fixation on areas of interest were 38.6 per cent (SD = 6.8) and 51.8 per cent (SD = 13.9) for the trainee group, respectively, and 39.9 per cent (SD = 4.1) and 50.9 per cent (SD = 9.3) for the consultant group (p = 0.01).Consultants used more systematic and efficient approaches than trainees during interpretation. After the introduction of a suggested search strategy, trainees showed trends towards consultant eye gaze behaviours. Eye tracking gives an interesting insight into the thought processes of physicians carrying out complex tasks. The implication is that eye tracking may have future use in teaching and assessment. Its use in objectively assessing different teaching strategies could be a valuable tool for medical education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Informatics Journal
Early online date19 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 19 Oct 2019


  • Eye tracking
  • Ophthalmology
  • education
  • digital health
  • Retinopathy
  • healthcare professional training
  • information and knowledge management
  • human factors
  • healthcare service innovation and information technology
  • clinical decision-making
  • medical imaging


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