Retrospective analysis of eFAST ultrasounds performed on trauma activations at an academic level-1 trauma center

World J Emerg Med. 2020;11(1):12-17. doi: 10.5847/wjem.j.1920-8642.2020.01.002.

Abstract

Background: Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has become increasingly integrated into the practice of emergency medicine. A common application is the extended focused assessment with sonography in trauma (eFAST) exam. The American College of Emergency Physicians has guidelines regarding the scope of ultrasound in the emergency department and the appropriate documentation. The objective of this study was to conduct a review of performed, documented and billed eFAST ultrasounds on trauma activation patients.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of all trauma activation patients during a 10-month period at an academic level-one trauma center. A list comparing all trauma activations was cross-referenced with a list of all billed eFAST scans. Medical records were reviewed to determine whether an eFAST was indicated, performed, and appropriately documented.

Results: We found that 1,507 of 1,597 trauma patients had indications for eFAST, but 396 (27%) of these patients did not have a billed eFAST. Of these 396 patients, 87 (22%) had documentation in the provider note that an eFAST was performed but there was no separate procedure note. The remaining 309 (78%) did not have any documentation of the eFAST in the patient's chart although an eFAST was recorded and reviewed during ultrasound quality assurance.

Conclusion: A significant proportion of trauma patients had eFAST exams performed but were not documented or billed. Lack of documentation was multifactorial. Emergency ultrasound programs require appropriate reimbursement to support training, credentialing, equipment, quality assurance, and device maintenance. Our study demonstrates a significant absence of adequate documentation leading to potential revenue loss for an emergency ultrasound program.

Keywords: Blunt trauma; Emergency medicine; Focused assessment with sonography in trauma; Point-of-care ultrasound; Trauma activation.