Handheld Ultrasound Education | Vscan Connections

Handheld Ultrasound Education

Handheld Ultrasound Education.

Embrace Handheld Ultrasound Training to Expand Patient Engagement

Handheld ultrasound may present the opportunity to help physicians further engage their patients, which is why some are evaluating adding it to their practices. After all, having another diagnostic tool is appealing to providers looking to improve patient care. However, bringing in this new technology requires training to get the most out of it. 

Many technologies have been presented as solutions, but few offer the accessibility, results and efficiency of hand-held ultrasound. For example, a study in Clinical Cardiology demonstrated "that the pocket-sized [portable transthoracic echocardiography (pTTE)] provides accurate detection of cardiac structural and functional abnormalities beyond the [electrocardiogram]." It also found that "the use of pTTE as an initial screening tool prior to [standard TTE] is cost-effective." And yet, the benefits don't stop there.

An Exceptional Patient Experience
The majority of patients most likely appreciate fewer tests, more convenience and reduced complications in their billing and financial experiences. Reducing unnecessary tests is important, and point of care ultrasound may be a practical step toward achieving that goal. According to Heart, "[Hand-held cardiac ultrasound] performed at the point of care by [family doctors] with remote expert support interpretation using a web-based system is feasible, rapid and useful for detecting significant echocardiographic abnormalities and reducing the number of unnecessary echocardiographic studies."

Increased Physician Engagement
Put simply, becoming a more confident user of handheld ultrasound gives physicians another way to engage their patients. According to the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, "By implementing pocket-size ultrasound examinations that took less than 11 minutes to the usual care, we corrected, verified or added important diagnoses in more than 1 of 3 emergency medical admissions. Point-of-care examinations with a pocket-size imaging device increased medical residents' diagnostic accuracy and capability."

Empowerment Through Ultrasound Training
Giving physicians access to the benefits of these new approaches to ultrasound and the physical examination requires training that is adaptable and that empowers physicians to optimize their results and maintain their skills over time.

On-Demand Training
The benefits of portable ultrasound training shouldn't be limited just to residents. Physicians who are advanced in their careers need flexible training methods to maintain and refresh their ultrasound skills over time.
Comprehensive, on-demand options facilitate continuous education and are accessible to physicians ranging from novice users who are just learning the technology to experienced practitioners who want to keep their skills sharp. These options include the following:
  • Focused courses.
  • Online videos and tutorials.
  • Point-of-care technology courses.
  • Point-of-care preceptorship courses.
  • Third-party training options.
  • Coaches.
  • Webcasts and webinars.
Learning Online
Online training now offers flexibility and continuous education that wasn't possible in the past. GE's POCUS FocusClass by 123 Sonography may help doctors gain confidence in performing basic ultrasound studies and interpretation. Physicians have access to modular options that can be tailored to training budgets, schedules and learning styles. These include common applications involving the following:
  • Heart.
  • Lung.
  • Obstetrics.
  • Kidney.
  • Vascular (abdominal aorta and deep vein thrombosis).
  • Biliary tract.
This type of training is designed specifically for primary care physicians and their busy schedules so that proficiency can be developed with maximum efficiency.

Today's ultrasound training options offer a wide range of benefits, including providing opportunities for physician champion projects, patient interaction initiatives and overall engagement goals. Clinical leaders invested in keeping their teams up to date in a fast-changing clinical technology landscape should keep ultrasound training on their shortlist of priorities.
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Handheld Ultrasound Education.

How Handheld Cardiac Ultrasound Aids in Diagnosis

Handheld cardiac ultrasound does not aim to replace routine comprehensive echocardiography, but its use may decrease the frequency of comprehensive scans. As a result, it might not only make clinicians' lives easier, but it may also lead to better patient experiences and outcomes.

Making a Cardiology Diagnosis
There are many applications for handheld ultrasound in making a cardiology diagnosis. For example, it may be used specifically to assess cardiac chamber size and function and valvular regurgitation. An article in Clinical Cardiology reported that "the pocket-sized [portable transthoracic echo (pTTE)] provides accurate detection of cardiac structural and functional abnormalities beyond the [electrocardiogram (ECG)]. In addition, the use of pTTE as an initial screening tool prior to [standard TTE] is cost-effective, suggesting that the pocket-sized pTTE is poised to alter the current diagnostic strategy in clinical practice."

Non-cardiologists may use handheld ultrasound as a tool for aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation. This means that the ultrasound may be an adjunct to clinical examination in patients where a murmur is heard. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift reports, "Pocket-size ultrasound imaging devices without continuous and pulse wave Doppler modalities can, even in the hands of a non-cardiologist with limited cardiac ultrasound instructions with high sensitivity and specificity, be a useful tool for detecting more than mild aortic stenosis and more than mild mitral regurgitation."

Handheld ultrasound may also be used to assess the volume status of the patient, via the inferior vena cava (IVC) diameter, as an indicator of progression of heart failure. As discussed in the American Journal of Cardiology, this use of ultrasound "is associated with an increased risk of heart failure admission and may provide clinically useful information at the point of care to guide heart failure management."

Augmenting Workflow
Handheld ultrasound may be used by primary care physicians to detect cardiovascular disease, and this may decrease the number of unnecessary formal echocardiograms. One study, published in Heart, used remote expert support to help interpret the handheld ultrasound images and found it to be "rapid and useful for detecting significant echocardiographic abnormalities and reducing the number of unnecessary echocardiographic studies."

Having repeat formal transthoracic echocardiograms (TTEs) to detect problems such as impaired ventricular function, pericardial effusion and IVC collapse is common. Using handheld, focused ultrasound scans of the heart may reduce the need for so many follow-up TTEs in a short space of time. A paper in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography concluded that "[t]he judicious use of expert focused cardiac ultrasound in place of repeat inpatient TTE has the potential to deliver quality cardiac imaging at reduced cost."

In some patients who are acutely unwell, moving them into a good position in their bed for a formal echocardiogram could be challenging. Handheld ultrasound may have an advantage as it can be used on patients in a semi-recumbent position. An article in Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavia concluded that "[t]he apparatus is well-suited for performing a [focus-assessed transthoracic echocardiography] examination in a one-day surgery setting and could very well also be applicable in almost any situation involving patients with acute illness."

Streamlining Care
What's more, handheld ultrasound may be used by cardiologists on their ward rounds. Being able to do a bedside ultrasound may reduce the number of formal echo studies that need to be done. As described in the American Journal of Medicine, "For hospitalized patients, [t]his finding could shift the burden of performing and interpreting the echocardiogram to the examining physician and reduce the number and cost associated with formal echocardiography studies."

In emergency departments, handheld ultrasound may reduce the time to diagnosis in patients presenting with shortness of breath. Herz reported, "One-third of patients had significant findings on the scans to possibly aid diagnosis and prevent misdiagnosis. This has the potential to reduce time to diagnosis in the [emergency department]."

Handheld ultrasound may be used by a broad range of healthcare professionals in different specialties to help streamline patient care, improve diagnosis and direct therapy — and it might be a beneficial adjunct to formal echocardiography.
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Handheld Ultrasound Education.

A New Hero in Reducing Healthcare Costs: Handheld Ultrasound

Value-based care might be a big focus in the industry, but reducing healthcare costs is still a major priority for leaders who are dealing with tight margins and fee-for-service contracts as well. Solutions such as handheld ultrasound have demonstrated cost-saving benefits for both patients and providers.

A Win for Both Hospitals and Patients
Hospitals are under increasing pressure to provide a balance of improved outcomes and cost efficiency for their care populations. These pressures have led effective administrators and leadership teams to seek out cost-effective solutions that don't compromise on quality or the patient experience.

Handheld ultrasound is a pocket-sized device that empowers clinicians, including cardiologists, general practitioners, OB/GYNs, primary care providers, emergency physicians and intensivists to conduct focused imaging at the point of care. Patients are provided with an optimized diagnostic journey at a lower cost — a benefit that's attractive as they take on a larger portion of the financial burden of care.

Reducing Healthcare Costs With Handheld Ultrasound
Handheld devices reduce costs, and it's more than simply being less expensive than traditional ultrasound models.
Handheld ultrasound devices are so small that providers are able to keep them on hand at all times. This means that providers are ready to conduct a variety of short, focused exams when appropriate, including the following:
  • Abdominal
  • Cardiology
  • Lung
  • Obstetric
  • Urology
  • Vascular
     
This enables simpler workflows and enables patients to start on the path to treatment faster because they don't need to wait for more comprehensive imaging modalities.

Lowering the Cost of Abdominal Paracentesis Procedures
According to the Journal of Medical Economics, "The use of ultrasound guidance in abdominal paracentesis procedures is associated with fewer [adverse events]." It has also been found to be associated with "lower hospitalization costs than other procedures where ultrasound is not used."

Savings in Thoracentesis Procedures
Another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Ultrasound, noted that "[ultrasound-guided] thoracentesis is associated with lower total hospital stay costs." It is also associated with a "lower incidence of pneumothorax and hemorrhage."

Cost-Effective Transthoracic Echocardiographic Imaging
A study published in Clinical Cardiology demonstrated that "pocket-sized [portable transthoracic echocardiography] provides accurate detection of cardiac structural and functional abnormalities beyond the ECG." What's more, the study says "the use of [portable transthoracic echocardiography] as an initial screening tool prior to [standard transthoracic echocardiography] is cost-effective, suggesting that the pocket-sized [portable transthoracic echocardiography] is poised to alter the current diagnostic strategy in clinical practice."

Moving Forward
Using a cost-effective ultrasound solution contributes to more efficient clinical processes and a better imaging experience for the patient. Options like handheld ultrasound should be a standard in implementing cost-focused best practices for forward-thinking healthcare organizations that prioritize increasing asset performance and reducing healthcare costs.
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Handheld Ultrasound Education. Improving Patient Care.

Handheld Point-of-Care Ultrasound: Why Having it is Important

When it comes to the best quality patient care, the physical exam is a fundamental factor. Providers glean a great deal of information this way, but using handheld ultrasound to visualize non-visible parts of the body might be a powerful clinical complement.

In many cases, having handheld ultrasound available might also be the key to accelerated patient care and accurate diagnoses. And, when time is of the essence, point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) may be the tool that speeds up your diagnostic capabilities.

Ultimately, using PoCUS, such as GE's Vscan Extend™, increases not only your confidence with your diagnosis, but your patient's comfort with the care you provide.

Inspiring Confidence
When a patient presents with a suspected problem, such as right upper quadrant or flank pain, making a timely diagnosis may be critical. Alongside a physical exam, PoCUS lets you focus immediately on the problem area and see what's invisible to the naked eye, giving you greater confidence in identifying the cause of the symptoms.

In fact, point-of-care ultrasound could increase how detailed your exam can be, adding valuable information to the patient's electronic health record. In a short amount of time, PoCUS may capture multiple clear images to give you a more robust picture. According to the concluding findings of a 2016 report from The World Book of Family Medicine, "because of a significant number of advantages, ultrasonography should be a diagnosis tool" used with a stethoscope in medical offices.

If needed, this level of detail lets you refer your patients for the right test or diagnostic treatment, reducing the likelihood they will go through unnecessary doctor visits or unneeded additional imaging.

Saving Time
PoCUS images may also help you save time whether you're an emergency department (ED) physician or a general practitioner.

In the ED, having access to a handheld ultrasound device may determine if and how you triage your patients. For example, if an individual has symptoms of cardiac distress, PoCUS may reveal information at the bedside in real time.

A PoCUS exam may also pave the way for rapid diagnosis during a regular doctor's visit. During an appointment, you may make an immediate decision whether your patient needs to see a specialist or be hospitalized. Not having to wait for another provider's analysis may fast-track needed therapy and reduce any stress patients might have about their symptoms.

Shortening Diagnosis Time
As you use PoCUS more often and fine-tune your skills, you're likely to become more confident in your findings. Over time, it's possible that you'll be able to render your bedside diagnoses and offer guidance more quickly.

A 2011 European Journal of Echocardiography study tested the diagnostic efficiency of PoCUS and high-end echocardiography and concluded that "pocket-sized echocardiographic examinations of approximately four-minute length, performed at the bedside by experts, offers reliable assessment of cardiac structures, the pleural space and the large abdominal vessels."

Improving Relationships
As a hand-held device, PoCUS gives you the opportunity to have more face time with your patients. In many cases, they watch as you conduct the exams and can ask questions. Getting real-time information from ultrasound images may increase the patient's confidence in your diagnosis and the treatment you'll prescribe. For example, PoCUS at the bedside may provide a pregnant woman with the immediate visual confirmation that her unborn baby is healthy.

Additionally, according to a 2018 Annals of Internal Medicine study, PoCUS may also offer high ultrasound imaging quality, and the authors concluded that they "believe that use of ultrasound by hospitalists will continue to modernize the bedside evaluation and streamline the diagnostic process." Bedside testing may lead to decreased lengths of stay, a reduction in resource utilization and lower costs.

PoCUS vs. Other Modalities
In many instances, PoCUS may provide better ultrasound image quality than the other modalities you employ with your patients. For example, according to the conclusions of a 2013 Clinical Cardiology study, "the pocket-sized (portable transthoracic echocardiography) provides accurate detection of cardiac structural and functional abnormalities beyond the ECG." These findings may boost your confidence that you'll catch a problem earlier.

In addition, research has also shown PoCUS is a strong alternative to chest X-ray when diagnosing pericardial (PE) and pleural effusions (PLE). A 2015 Scandanavian Cardiovascular Journal article that observed nurses using ultrasound concluded that "Cardiac nurses were able to obtain reliable measurements and quantification of both PE and PLE bedside by focused ultrasound."

Overall, in today's healthcare environment, PoCUS may play a significant role in providing additional clues during physical exams to make a diagnosis. By employing PoCUS, you may be able to gather these images much faster than you possibly could with other options. And, as you become more proficient with the hand-held technology, you may become more confident with your real-time diagnosis, potentially improving patient care.

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