Ultrasound equipment technology is rapidly advancing, producing new devices that generate more accurate images. One of the newest developments was the introduction of hand-held ultrasound machines to be used at the point-of-care for patients. The streamlined equipment started new discussions on the role of ultrasound imaging in the transforming healthcare landscape. It is clear that ultrasound technicians, supported by mobile and other technology, are growing increasingly important in the effort to deliver affordable and efficient healthcare.
What is Point-of-Care Ultrasound?
Most ultrasound imaging is performed in hospitals or clinic and requires large, sophisticated equipment. Until recently, mobile imaging mostly referred to equipment placed in vans or trailers and then transported to various locations for use where sonographic imaging was not available.
Point-of-care ultrasound is different in that imaging services are delivered at the patient’s bedside or other location. The equipment goes to the patient rather than the patient going to the equipment. Point-of-care sonographic imaging is used for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, and as the equipment grows more sophisticated, the applications grow also.
Handheld Devices Changing Service Delivery
Today’s Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is pursuing a career during exciting times. The development of handheld ultrasound imaging devices reflects the increasing sophistication of technology, leading to miniaturized components that make palm-sized imaging devices possible.
A good example is the trademarked Vscan imaging device developed by General Electric with funding by the National Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering. The unit has the following features:
- Produces images of internal organs
- Displays real-time blood flow movement
- Color Doppler
- Long battery charge life
Just as important is the fact the handheld devices can produce images for approximately 20 percent lower cost compared to traditional ultrasound imaging. This is critical in a healthcare industry struggling to contain costs while expanding services at the same time.
New Career Paths Opening for Sonographers
General Electric is not the only company producing handheld ultrasound imaging equipment. However, no matter who manufacturers them, there is agreement the portability of ultrasound is going to lead to major changes in the delivery of healthcare services. Diagnostic decisions can be made more rapidly, at less cost and in unlimited locations. Studies are also indicating that ultrasound technology can contribute to procedures that have fewer complications and can improve the accuracy of medical diagnoses.
This is exciting news for the Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) issued a ‘Position Statement’ that says point-of-care ultrasound procedures should be performed by a certified Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or a licensed health care provider who meets certain requirements.
The ARDMS registered sonographer will find expanding career opportunities in areas like:
- Home health services
- Rural locations
- Assisting traveling medical units
- Closing some of the healthcare services gaps in underserved locations
- Assisting emergency workers, including in ambulances
The portable ultrasound imaging equipment can produce images that can be uploaded on the internet. This suggest there will also be growing need for sonographers with computer skills that extend beyond operating ultrasound equipment.
The most recent portable imaging devices are pocket-size, meaning health professionals can easily carry the equipment. However, being able to carry the equipment does not mean the person is skilled in its use. Professionals who attended Diagnostic Medical Sonography accredited schools and earned ARDMS certification are already in great demand, but that demand is expected to increase even more.