The transformation of the health care industry is underway due to the national effort to lower health care costs by embracing technology more efficiently and effectively. Technology is changing the health care industry by enabling more accurate diagnosis through the use of non-invasive procedures. With this trend is the expansion in the use of sophisticated medical ultrasound or Doppler units to diagnose medical issues. The equipment is only useful when operated by a trained, educated ultrasound technician who is comfortable using cutting edge, sophisticated technology.
Technology Sophistication Ahead of Its Time
The science of ultrasound imaging is ahead of its time. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have been performing non-invasive procedures using the latest technology for decades. However, the growing emphasis today on developing non-invasive procedures for expanded diagnostic purposes is encouraging research in the development of ever more sophisticated imaging equipment. The research and development of new ultrasound imaging techniques are exciting.
For example, a new technique was recently developed to track the representation of odors in rat brains. The study was conducted by two teams led by Mickael Tanter and Hirac Gurden at Paris University Diderot (published in July 15, 2014 “Neurolmage”). The new ultrasound imaging technique will help scientists further unravel the functioning of the systems in the deep brain where olfactory relays are found. In a hugely simplified explanation, an odor triggered blood volume increases in certain brain areas, leading to activated neurons. Developing the ability to create ultrasound images of the activity means that one day sonographers will use sonographic imaging procedures for diagnosis of medical issues in the deepest brain structures.
Ultrasound was recently used, with MRI guidance, to deliver high-intensity focused sound waves to destroy a tumor. A 16-year Canadian boy had osteo osteoma, and was the first case in which a completely non-invasive produces was used to destroy the bone tumor. There are now plans to continue developing more complex ultrasound procedures for incisionless treatment of other medical conditions that have required at least minimally invasive approaches. The doctor who performed this breakthrough ultrasound procedure – Dr. James Drake, Head of the Division of SickKids’ Centre for Image-Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention – anticipates ultrasound will soon play a role in other surgical areas like pediatric stroke and soft-tissue tumors.
The trend towards using non-invasive therapy makes sense for many reasons:
- Reduces patient risk
- Reduces patient recovery time
- Can be used on children and adults of all ages
- Reduces cost of treatment
Healthcare reform in the United States is providing impetus for advancing sonographic imaging technology. Most people are familiar with the Affordable Care Act of 2010 by now since implementation has started. However, they may not be aware of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) passed in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The HITECH Act is primarily focused on electronic health records and creation of a national health care infrastructure, as opposed to specific medical procedures. However, one of the goals is to develop a more cost-effective, high-tech health care system so the HITECH Act has been a catalyst for looking at technology at all levels of the health care system. In other words, sonographers must be comfortable using technology to deliver medical services and for maintaining patient records.
A “Higher Tech” Future
Lowering health care costs through the use of technology has also led to an increasing shifting of procedures from medical centers to physician offices and outpatient clinics. There is little doubt that the future holds new mobile ultrasound technology that will enhance delivery of services into areas where ultrasound imaging equipment is not accessible.
Anyone who chooses to go into Diagnostic Medical Sonography should only attend a CAAHEP accredited ultrasound technician program because it has been reviewed for quality. In this case, quality refers to how well the program trains sonography students to enter the sonography field in the “real world.” Anyone considering sonography should be interested in learning and mastering technology because it is so integral to everything the ultrasound technologist does while on the job. The sonographer should also have an interest in maintaining knowledge currency because one thing is for certain: Ultrasound imaging technology will just keep getting more sophisticated.