How an emphasis on cost effective medical practice and patient safety issues will influence the future of point of care ultrasound.

by: James Mateer MD RDMS

It is interesting to see how things go in cycles…  In the 80’s ACEP offered a curriculum entitled: “Cost containment in Emergency Medicine”.  This was a program used to train EM physicians and residents in the appropriate use of testing and provide the most efficient use of resources.  The program was developed during an economic downturn (remember mortgage rates of 18%?).

Intro to Emergency Medicine - Abdominal Scan
Emergency Ultrasound at Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute

Today we are in the midst of another economic downturn and there are increasing pressures to reduce the cost of healthcare.  ACEP has recently developed a survey for members to help identify areas where Emergency Medicine can reduce the cost of care without sacrificing quality.

Some interesting health care statistics for the US include:

  • We use 15% of our GNP for healthcare vs. 8.6% average for other countries.
  • We do >10 times as many CT/MR studies per capita than other industrialized nations (if you have not looked recently, these are very expensive tests).
  • Despite this, USA ranks lower than many other countries in quality of health indicators.

At the same time, there has been an increased interest in patient safety issues.  There are many reports concerning the increasing levels of medical radiation that we are exposing patients to, and the potential long-term effects of these exposures.  New Ultrasound – First guidelines have been developed to encourage clinicians to avoid unnecessary radiation whenever appropriate.

A shift is occurring in Medicine – away from the current fee for service model and towards the pay for performance and cost containment models.  Since much of the cost of care is dictated by the cost of the tests we order, clinicians who utilize clinical judgment supplemented by low cost testing options will have the greatest success in reducing the overall costs of healthcare, while retaining reasonable compensation for their services.

It is clear that point of care ultrasound will have an essential role in reducing costs while providing quality and safety for patient care.

Side Note

One of the goals for this website is to present ultrasound topics with a focus on how the specific uses save time, increase safety and/or improve the cost effective practice of medicine.  We encourage participants attending ultrasound training seminars to respond with their experience and/or ideas on the same topic.  We anticipate continued improvements in the utilization of POC US through this free exchange from clinicians who are actively exploring the most effective uses for this technology (James Mateer MD RDMS).

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