Physician’s Weekly recently interviewed Nilam J. Soni, MD, MS, SFHM, FACP, on the barriers keeping clinicians from receiving point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) training. Dr. Soni is the director of the VA POCUS Patient Safety Center, and he, with a number of colleagues, conducted a survey to uncover the overall use of POCUS in hospitals and to determine what may be keeping some from adopting the tool. “There’s a need for better technology at the bedside, and point-of-care ultrasound provides that,” he said, “but why isn’t everyone using it?”
The survey results revealed that 64% of hospital medicine groups reported at least one person in their facility using bedside ultrasound. “However, the number of groups using POCUS didn’t grow substantially [from 2015], as we had thought it would,” he explained. In fact, though diagnostic use of POCUS increased from 2015 to 2020, procedural use declined. It’s not due to a lack of interest in the tool. Hospitalists are interested in receiving training, but the barriers to training create a gap between desire and education.
The largest barrier keeping hospitalists from adopting POCUS is accessibility to available training courses. The researchers make sure to note in their study that the issue isn’t necessarily a lack of training options, implying that plenty of educational opportunities exist. Instead, clinicians face difficulties getting the necessary time off work, traveling to in-person courses, or finding equipment to practice with.
Many surveyees declared an interest in training courses hosted by their own hospitals. Such opportunities would cut down barriers, slashing the need for travel and the limit on accessible devices.
Also, the recent rise in online learning is removing the need for travel. Since 2020, educators have optimized their online training techniques, allowing them to guide students virtually. In a study published by the Ultrasound Journal, researchers found that “POCUS CME (continuing medical education) courses appeared to be as effective [as in-person training] for improving POCUS knowledge post-course and fulfilling learning objectives.”
Still, Dr. Soni believes it could be 10 to 20 years before the gap is closed and all hospitalists who want to use POCUS have received the necessary training. Until steps are taken to remove those barriers, the growth of bedside ultrasound will continue to be stunted.
To do our part to bridge the gap, the Point-of-Care Certification Academy™ has developed the POCUS Education Provider (PEP) network. It is a community of independent POCUS training resources that have been vetted and confirmed to provide quality education and training experience to new and advanced POCUS users worldwide.
Many PEP programs offer virtual course options, but for those interested in in-person training, the network includes programs in countries around the world. From Australia to India to South America, partners all over the globe are working together to provide the necessary training so as many clinicians as possible may gain access to the lifesaving tool.
We believe that the final key to creating accessibility for POCUS training is advocacy. Though many are familiar with the tool’s benefits, some clinicians and hospital leaders may not feel a sense of urgency. They may not realize the full strength of POCUS to improve patient and provider experience, its proficiency to furnish immediate insight into pathologies, and its immense capability to save lives. Those who use and understand the life-changing benefits of POCUS need to be the advocates for this technology in their healthcare space, thereby growing the number of POCUS users and advancing healthcare and patient outcomes.
The POCUS Certification Academy is partnering with volunteers around the globe who have agreed to devote time to such advocacy. With the help of these champions, we hope to soon see a world where everyone has access to lifesaving technology.