POCUS Takes Us Into the Future and Beyond

Back to the Future Part II debuted and became the third highest-grossing movie in 1989. The forward-looking film took its audience on a journey into 2015. Marty McFly and Doc encountered technology on levels above and beyond the average day thinkers of the 20th century and invited viewers to experience […]

Back to the Future Part II debuted and became the third highest-grossing movie in 1989. The forward-looking film took its audience on a journey into 2015. Marty McFly and Doc encountered technology on levels above and beyond the average day thinkers of the 20th century and invited viewers to experience sci-fi in unimaginable ways. From self-tying sneakers to flying cars, The Jetsons had become a live-action adventure.

Fast forward to 2022, and much of the innovation presented in the movie as make-believe is indeed today’s reality. The Smart Home, filled with voice recognition and commands, biometric scanners for security, and self-regulated thermostats, looks a lot like the houses we occupy nowadays. Let’s not mention the daily use of video calls, the fun we have with virtual or augmented reality headsets, and the ability to expand our perception through drone photo and video taking. The technology that has evolved as the norm has transformed fiction into actuality.

The science-fiction vision of what our world could be has altered not only our daily lives but also medicine. At the 2022 POCUS World Conference, Dr. Larry Istrail, M.D., keynote the closing session illustrating for attendees the pre. versus the post-POCUS era. He wrapped up the virtual event gearing our community up for what’s to come. He reminded his listeners that there was a time when scanning patients was only seen and done on Star Trek. Yet, in the 21st century, the ability to peel back the skin and look inside the body is no longer wishful thinking but an absolute.

Utilizing point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) to diagnose and monitor patients has become our standard, so much so that chatter continues and has escalated regarding the state of the stethoscope. Is the museum the next best place for this modality?

Over the years, the device has been provided with its share of technological upgrades. The modern design of the stethoscope was finalized in 1945[1]. It wasn’t until 2019 that it received its most advanced modification with noise canceling technology and the integration of microphones. Most recently, Eko developed a design that includes an add-on that detects abnormal pulmonary and heart conditions and can link to Bluetooth. The stethoscope of tomorrow may lead to real-time AI analysis and ECG probe connection. Although better, one limitation remains. The stethoscope is a listening device, while POCUS gives medical providers eyes into the unknown. Seeing is believing, after all.

Dr. Istrai explains it this way, “The whole point of the physical exam is to augment the patient’s subjective history with some sort of objective data.” POCUS removes ambiguities and provides solid and precise facts to treat and care for patients. The stethoscope allows physicians only to hear the sound, while POCUS permits the sound to be seen, eliminating subjectivity and amplifying accuracy.

This “peeling back of the skin” only promises to improve its capabilities. New generations of POCUS systems are on the rise. Various new technologies integrated with POCUS have been or are in development to improve the accuracy of diagnosis. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, 5G networks, robots, and tele-remote technology. All set to revolutionize medical fantasies, cascading them into our new way of practice.

POCUS with AI technology

Healthcare professionals require in-depth training and experience to become proficient at POCUS diagnoses, which can sometimes take years. AI is reducing this timeframe.

AI technology handles large amounts of data quickly while obtaining diagnostic images and identifying raw data and patterns that improve diagnostic efficiency and accuracy. Its continuous optimization and learning improve POCUS imaging processing and analysis. The result is that POCUS with AI can ultimately predict diseases, conduct risk assessments, and realize clinical diagnosis and treatment with greater efficiency.

Cloud-based POCUS

The cloud is a computing platform utilizing the internet to accelerate the integration of massive amounts of algorithm formulas and storage resources. In other words, documents and data stored in the cloud are housed on internet servers instead of a computer hard drive. This not only allows medical personnel to keep endless quantities of images, but cloud-based POCUS provides an easily accessible distribution center. We can now look forward to increased processing speeds, resource allocation optimization, and the ability to share medical information and learnings instantly.

5G-based Tele-Remote POCUS

Providers more efficient at POCUS application are remotely training their colleagues and caring for patients alongside them as if they were in the same room. With 5G-based tele-remote POCUS, expert physicians in a different location use the technology to help guide other providers in performing a POCUS exam in real-time. This same technique is also conducted using a remote robot. Medical providers can control a robot to perform POCUS scans remotely and provide a medical diagnosis based on images produced by the robotic scanning. Distance is no longer a barrier to healthcare access due in part to the phenomenal reach of this innovation.

We must take notice. This is only the beginning! The best of POCUS is yet to come. The future is here, and soon the stethoscope will find a new home. Technological advances are allowing POCUS to become commonplace. Innovation is exploding, and POCUS has joined the modern technology revolution. Now is the time to get back to the future. Will you be ready to go?

Learn more about how you can prepare for the POCUS takeover! Visit our POCUS Education Resource page.


{1] Mukherjee, S. (2022). Should stethoscopes be displayed in museums? Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab. Retrieved from https://innovations.stanford.edu/student-feature/should-stethoscopes-be-displayed-in-museums/

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