Point-of-Care Ultrasound: Does it Affect Scores on Standardized Assessment Tests Used Within the Preclinical Curriculum?

J Ultrasound Med. 2019 Feb;38(2):433-440. doi: 10.1002/jum.14709. Epub 2018 Jul 29.


Objectives: An increasing number of medical schools are incorporating point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) into preclinical and clinical curricula. The ultimate effect of this teaching is unclear, and there has been no distinct link between ultrasound (US) learning and existing standardized student assessments. Additionally, neither optimal timing nor methods of POCUS integration have been established. We aimed to demonstrate the effect of US teaching on standardized objective assessments that already exist within the curriculum and, in doing so, discern a route for POCUS curricular integration.

Methods: A longitudinal POCUS pilot curriculum was started in 2013, with the class of 2017. We collected basic science course results, standardized objective structured clinical examination scores, and United States Medical Licensing Examination step 1 scores from both the pilot group (n = 34) and matched control participants (n = 34) from the classes of 2017 and 2018. Scores between POCUS students and controls were analyzed by Student t tests.

Results: Students participating in the longitudinal POCUS program scored significantly higher on the physical examination portion of their clinical skill objective structured clinical examination assessment than the control group (mean score, 89.2 versus 85.7; P < .05). This parameter was the only area with a statistically significant difference.

Conclusions: Point-of-care US program implementation may improve students' overall physical examination understanding and performance, even when US performance itself is not being tested. Introducing a POCUS curriculum may work best when designed in conjunction with the physical examination thread of a medical school curriculum.

Keywords: assessment; curriculum; point-of-care ultrasound; undergraduate medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Curriculum*
  • Educational Measurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pilot Projects
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Ultrasonics / education*
  • Ultrasonography