Aims: The aim of this study was to assess the cost-effectiveness of using certified sonographers and miniaturized echocardiography systems to perform echocardiograms at bedside in comparison to moving inpatients from the admission department to the echocardiography laboratory (echo-lab).
Methods and results: From 26 September 2005 to 27 October 2005, 112 patients admitted in six hospital wards connected through a 100 Mbit LAN to the echo-lab were scanned within the admission ward by sonographers using a miniaturized echo system. Logistical data were collected and results were compared with those obtained from 194 consecutive patients coming from the same wards and studied in the echo-lab with high-end machines between 8 March 2005 and 15 April 2005. Performing echocardiograms in the admission department avoided long waiting time of the inpatients in the echo-lab before and after the study, increased the percentage of patients studied within 3 and 5 days from request (88 vs. 77% and 100 vs. 95%, respectively; P = 0.03), increased both sonographer (by 33.9%; P < 0.001) and echo-lab productivity (by 41%; P < 0.001), and reduced costs of echocardiograms by 29%.
Conclusion: Implementation of digital echocardiography, certified sonographers, and a miniaturized echo system allowed improvement of the cost-effectiveness of the service provided by the echo-lab for inpatients, and avoided patients' discomfort derived from prolonged waiting time before and after the exam.