Dr. Nicole Yedlinsky joined the POCUS Certification Academy™ on our Focus on POCUS™ podcast to share incredible insights on how to transition musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound into the world of general point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). In this December 16th episode, Dr. Yedlinsky stressed the importance of training for POCUS use in daily practice, particularly as it pertains to family care practitioners.
Due to their training, family physicians serve as primary care providers. At a minimum, they complete three years of specialty training beyond medical school in the broad disciplines of primary care. Their education includes in-depth coverage of adult and pediatric medicine, preventive care, and obstetrics care.
Dr. Yedlinsky highlights that because of their general background, those in family medicine have a higher probability of finding themselves practicing in locations or within conditions where advanced ultrasound imaging or radiological studies are not readily available. Family care providers can find themselves practicing in rural or underserved areas, or even on a mission field overseas.
Here is where POCUS becomes essential.
“It’s interesting to be in a place where you don’t have subspecialty care and you don’t have those colleagues practicing right next to you. All of a sudden, you say to yourself, “What are the skills that I need to take care of my patient population the best that I can.” Here’s where I feel family medicine residents need to really expand their use of point-of-care ultrasound,” advises Dr. Yedlinsky.
The foundation of family medicine is a continuous personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care that looks at the whole person, as opposed to one organ system. Family doctors take a personalized approach to healthcare. Their holistic view allows them the ability to provide a full range of healthcare services, treat all genders and age groups, and build long-term patient relationships.
In a nutshell, “family physicians do it all,” describes Dr. Yedlinsky. Those in family medicine must wear many hats. These practitioners are hospitalists, working with prenatal patients and delivering babies, as well as tending to cases in emergency rooms and urgent care. “So why wouldn’t a primary care physician want to know point-of-care ultrasound?” asked Dr. Yedlinsky.
POCUS empowers the primary care physician by providing more diagnostic information as well as increasing precision in clinical procedures. For example, POCUS is used to guide venous access or joint injection procedures. It enables the physician to locate and follow the needle’s way through the tissue via the screen. In turn, it is increasing accuracy and diagnostic time.
Point-of-care ultrasound describes a focused ultrasound exam designed for answering a single question. It involves limited and specific ultrasound protocols performed at the bedside by its user who is seeking answers to a particular question and, thus, expediting and pinpointing a precise treatment plan for patients.
That is the role and goal of any family practitioner. They are healthcare providers who provide a wellness and care plan for their patient’s long-term health. POCUS delivers the answers that allow them to do so with greater agility with increased certainty. What’s directly impacted is the patient’s experience and quality of care. POCUS supports the varying roles and knowledge base that family physicians possess, making room for strengthening the attention that each patient receives.
As mentioned, forming solid patient relationships is core to the many roles that family physicians play. Good rapport is necessary to ensure a job well done. However, there are hurdles present in today’s healthcare environment that impede building secure bridges between physician and patient. Those practicing family medicine are forced to spend less time with each patient and instead dedicate their energies to swimming in a sea of administration, insurance compliance, fragmented care, and giving attention to the electronic health record (EHR) systems.
Due to its portability and size, POCUS brings healthcare providers back to the bedside of those they tend. There is no more perfect place to be than right by the patient’s side. This gesture is one of the most significant intangible benefits that POCUS offers both the family practitioner and the patient.
If POCUS provides so much value to the family physician, why the hesitation? Dr. Yedlinsky attributes it to intimidation of the technology. There is concern that it is difficult to learn and to integrate POCUS into one’s practice will only add to the burden that physicians already feel.
There is no doubt that point-of-care ultrasound is a highly user-dependent imaging modality compared to radiography, CT, and MRI. Artifacts abound as well as both false positive and false negative findings. However, there are hosts of accreditation programs by credible societies, such as the POCUS Certification Academy, that help standardize and improve the quality of general diagnostic ultrasound imaging and interpretation. The programs offered, assist in obtaining the skills, knowledge base, and expertise required to excel at being a POCUS user.
Organizations offering POCUS programs and the encouragement for physicians to remain at the forefront of development in medicine should be drivers that urge medical professionals on a forever track of learning. Dr. Yedlinsky believes, “This is a skill that any family physician can do. There is a steep learning curve, but it is no different from any skill we might learn.”
Listen to “Benefits of POCUS MSK in a Family Practice Setting” podcast episode in full to hear Dr. Yedlinsky share her thoughts on the value POCUS brings to those in family medicine.
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