The State of POCUS Today: Present Challenges and Triumphs of Ultrasound

Over the past few years, point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has become an invaluable tool for many healthcare specialists. By providing immediate answers at the point of care, POCUS has been an innovative and integral component in numerous healthcare settings. Many professionals utilizing POCUS come from medical fields such as emergency medicine, general surgery, and critical care. Now, many physicians use POCUS as both an instant diagnostic tool and an educational opportunity for teaching and training healthcare professionals.

The release of Exo’s first survey report, “Unlocking Point-of-Care Ultrasound,” delves into current trends and attitudes regarding POCUS. As POCUS continues to reshape the world around us, it is important to recognize the public’s current perception of this subset of medical imaging. While POCUS does face certain challenges in being mass adopted, patients and clinicians alike continue to maximize POCUS in their daily lives. Additionally, with the recent introduction of ultrasound AI, people can expect POCUS to improve patient outcomes further.

The Growing Demand for POCUS in Healthcare

Speed to diagnosis and treatment improves patient outcomes, reduces complications, and can preserve a patient’s quality of life. Due to the increased demand for immediate answers at the point of care, the POCUS market continues to grow. Exo’s survey respondents cited some of the following as top benefits of POCUS, which significantly contribute to the POCUS market:

  • 95% reported more confidence in their diagnosis provided by POCUS.
  • 91% reported increased speed to diagnosis and treatment.
  • 87% believed POCUS improves patient outcomes.

Furthermore, POCUS has garnered a positive reputation through real, clinical benefits. POCUS devices can help physicians to diagnose medical conditions, such as respiratory distress and abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). This is especially important considering most of these issues could easily be ruptured or worsened. POCUS provides patient care providers with the right sensitivity to examine these issues and quickly move to treatment.

Additionally, POCUS can be used in place of formal radiology studies (Hashim et al., 2021). In situations where the patient may be experiencing urgent need, such as an airway compromise or a traumatic injury, POCUS can be used in diagnosing these problems in real-time. By reducing the delay caused by waiting for an available MRI, healthcare professionals can easily assess the situation at the tip of their fingers.

To accelerate POCUS expansion, there is a growing need to rapidly train new users through automated or assisted tools and help identify what they see. Some examples include auto-labeling or assisted scanning to automated measurements.

The Challenges Hindering POCUS Adoption

While the benefits of POCUS are clear, there are still barriers to driving widespread POCUS adoption. Respondents shared that they experienced major challenges when using POCUS devices. Without seamless integration, clinicians are using complex, time-consuming workflows for compliance, quality assurance, credentialing management, and reimbursement. Respondents verified this frustration by identifying POCUS documentation as a challenge and noting they don’t have a dedicated POCUS workflow inside or outside the electronic health record (EHR) to seamlessly handle the data entry, documentation process, and billing steps.

Respondents also listed integration with IT (72%) as an important consideration for POCUS evaluation. Many POCUS devices available today do not seamlessly integrate with existing healthcare IT systems for storage or billing, often resulting in complicated workflows that can quickly escalate POCUS challenges.

To expand the use of POCUS, better infrastructure is needed to support the imaging process and its surrounding components. This infrastructure is often referred to as a POCUS workflow, encompassing steps like patient entry, scanning, documentation, image storage, quality assurance, and billing. A good POCUS workflow will both streamline these exam steps and support the compliance and security needs of the healthcare facility.

Alternatively, caregivers can reduce time on tedious tasks by linking an ultrasound exam to a patient’s information or a hospital modality worklist by using barcode readers. All of this is possible while POCUS increases accuracy and compliance.

Potential Benefits in Driving Mass Adoption of POCUS

Despite the challenges facing POCUS, medical professionals and patients alike can still expect advances toward mass adoption. There are many promises for POCUS and its return on investment (ROI) for hospitals and patient care providers, including immediate diagnoses, reduced diagnosis time, and decreased length of hospital stay. POCUS can also improve hospital staff productivity and patient satisfaction. Read the full survey report for the respondents’ views on these ROI proof points.

But to become a priority for investment among healthcare directors, department heads and administrators, POCUS solutions need to show value in patient care and provide the infrastructure for efficiencies downstream. For example, a POCUS workflow should demonstrate how its documentation will bolster billing efficiencies and accommodate software security needs.

There is a need to drive efficiencies for compliance, reimbursement capture, productivity, and improved patient and provider satisfaction, all of which can lead to reduced caregiver burnout. Therefore, to grow global adoption of POCUS, we must work on creating strong workflows that will better support these goals while also delivering quality service for patients and their providers.

Exo’s Role in Paving the Future of POCUS

Exo’s mission is to trailblaze new care pathways and modernize the medical landscape through our high-performance portable ultrasound machine, Exo Iris™, our POCUS workflow, Exo Works™, and our artificial intelligence. Learn more about Exo’s AI.

We believe in the boundless opportunities POCUS can bolster for caregivers and patients, giving them accurate information instantly. Ultrasound should aid clinicians in making the best possible choices for their patients, and Exo’s ecosystem makes this possible.

Interested in learning more about the current trends in POCUS? Get a copy of our survey report: “Unlocking Point-of-Care Ultrasound” here.