There is a newcomer to the field of ultrasound technology: pocket ultrasound devices. For many doctors across the country, this tiny machine has been a part of normal physical exam tools in both hospital and outpatient clinic settings. Although pocket ultrasound devices are not necessarily standard in every healthcare environment, more doctors and sonographers are considering purchasing these machines to make bedside ultrasound a seamless part of the scanning practice.
Sonographers may find that pocket ultrasound machines are welcome and unexpected bonuses since many patients find the technology fascinating. In some cases, a sonographer may decide to allow the patient to hold the device so that the sonographer can point out what it is that he or she is seeing. However, since some sonographers are not legally allowed to discuss ultrasound findings with the patients, this may be a tricky line to walk, and many ultrasound technicians may decide to use the device only for their eyes.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Pocket Ultrasound Machines
As a sonographer, the first item to consider when deciding to purchase a handheld ultrasound device is the cost. The average pocket machine can retail for more than $ 8,000, although they may be available through secondhand markets or from an overseas retailer. Many sonographers and doctors balk at the notification of spending this amount of money on a single piece of equipment since many of the most expensive gadgets that sonographers use are owned by the practice or hospital in which they work.
However, musicians, for example, purchase their own instruments that often exceeded tens of thousands of dollars, leading many sonographers to consider whether the cost bought to be a serious consideration when deciding whether to purchase a pocket ultrasound machine.
Additionally, it is important to note that not everyone can purchase one of these devices and expect to know how to use it right away. Rather, sonography and ultrasound imaging can take years to learn, so it may be in a sonographer's best interest to gain experience using the standard ultrasound machines before he or she purchases a device for his or her own use.
On the other hand, doctors often maintain that "practice makes perfect" and that learning exponentially expends with on-the-job experience. Many medical students are now learning how to use bedside ultrasound machines as part of their standard training, and some doctors claim that these portable devices are simply another way in which students and technicians can gain practice.
Patients may wonder why pocket ultrasound machines are not available for their own purchase or why their doctors are not currently using these devices. Although it may be difficult to develop this type of technology, the answer may lie in a less-than-wholesome factor. Ultrasound is a huge aspect of the radiology field, and it has grown as sonographers and doctors have become aware of potential dangers of repeated ultrasounds and scans.
Full-scale ultrasounds are performed by sonographers using machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and these scans are typically read by radiologists and billed out for thousands of dollars apiece. Should sonographers perform these exams for free at a patient's bedside, the revenue centers and insurance companies may be negatively impacted. In other words, it may not be in the financial interest of the entire industry for manufacturers to produce pocket ultrasound machines.
However, imaging of all kinds is often anxiety-provoking and misleading. There are many instances in when abnormalities turn out to be nothing more than a common side effect or a condition that is easily treated or removed. Combining bedside imaging with talking to the patients, examining them and reviewing laboratory data may be less likely to cause misdiagnoses than appropriate ones.
Still, older doctors who are trying to adjust to changes may feel as though they are losing the profession that they had so skillfully practiced in the past. Rather than fight this change, doctors and sonographers may consider embracing the new technology and understand that pocket ultrasound machines may simply mean one additional way to diagnose and help the patient through what may be a difficult time in his or her life.
While pocket ultrasound machines are useful and effective for many sonographers as they have the ability to perform scans in a matter of minutes, it is important to consider the entire picture should he or she contemplate the purchase of this device. Pocket ultrasound machines are new and exciting now, but it may only be a matter of time before they are a part of a sonographer's regular scanning process.