Delivering Better Care in a More Cost-Effective Way With Point-of-Care Ultrasound

By Sandeep Akkaraju

Nationwide, health systems have been increasingly considering how technology can drive time and cost efficiencies at their institutions. As hospitals grapple with a widespread problem of healthcare burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic, many health systems have already adopted technologies like telehealth aimed at reducing admission rates and delivering improved quality care at scale. In 2023, we’ll continue to see health systems explore other solutions that enable operational efficiencies and better patient outcomes. One such solution is point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS).

How modern POCUS devices are a cost-friendly alternative to traditional ultrasound exams

Enhanced handheld POCUS devices are simpler and less expensive than traditional ultrasound solutions, so healthcare facilities that start using POCUS will see significant cost savings when deploying the devices. Their simplicity also allows more hospitals to adopt ultrasound and offer it to more patients, which can improve the overall patient experience and health outcomes. For example, having visual proof of a medical condition can sometimes aid in doctor-patient conversations when discussing next steps for treatment.

Modern POCUS devices allow clinicians to see deep into the body, providing immediate insight into the patient’s condition and thereby improving diagnostic accuracy. Easy and rapid imaging from the first interaction can reduce patient readmission rates, driving efficiencies for bandwidth-strapped clinicians while enhancing the patient experience. And POCUS isn’t just useful for physicians at the bedside. For example, an article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that “training nurses in POCUS techniques could serve as a force multiplier with beneficial effects on clinical efficacy and workflow.” Relatedly, another article in the same journal demonstrated that POCUS utilization could reduce readmission rates among heart failure patients.

Increased utilization of POCUS will also impact patient loyalty, since bedside imaging allows for rapid and high-quality care, further improving the patient experience. Moreover, POCUS solutions can reduce the time the patient is waiting (often more than a couple hours) for comprehensive ultrasound imaging. Plus, these ultrasound scans can be conducted at the bedside, allowing clinicians to obtain answers immediately. By eliminating the need for follow-up appointments with outpatient ultrasound, clinicians can integrate POCUS into clinical care to see more patients and increase health system revenue potential.

Also, when POCUS is used outside the emergency department (such as in outpatient clinics), early screening for patients’ conditions can be performed and reduce overall patient costs. POCUS can be the clinical tool that may drive earlier health interventions.

When coupled with a better workflow, POCUS technology helps healthcare facilities capture revenue more efficiently

Care facilities can also unlock revenue collection opportunities by using POCUS. Today, ultrasound documentation can take hours of clinicians’ time. Not only does this create significant inefficiencies for doctors (and prevent them from seeing more patients), but it also can lead to missed billing opportunities when overloaded clinicians aren’t able to document the ultrasound exam accurately or comprehensively.

This process can now be completed in a matter of minutes at the bedside with POCUS, minimizing errors and lost information. Handheld ultrasound devices can seamlessly transmit scans and notes into a hospital’s EHR, saving clinicians hours of time—time they can instead spend serving patients. And, by capturing more comprehensive and accurate ultrasound information, POCUS can support health systems in billing for services rendered.

The human savings behind POCUS: Better processes and better clinician satisfaction makes for less turnover

According to Psychology Today, contributing factors of clinical fatigue are centered around processes rather than patient care. So, by creating an upgraded ecosystem of POCUS devices and workflows, healthcare facilities can target those slow, mentally draining processes and provide relief to physicians through improved technology. POCUS improves efficiencies and allows doctors to focus on patient care, which enhances job satisfaction and reduces the risk of turnover. This is a significant benefit to health systems as turnover leads to operational disruptions regarding the time and resources needed to identify, vet, and onboard new staff members.

Enhanced POCUS solutions can be an essential avenue for healthcare systems to maximize their ability to provide quality care while boosting their bottom line. The next step is bringing the value of these tools to more clinicians, giving them a new tool to help their patients.

Sandeep Akkaraju is co-founder and CEO of Exo.