The assessment of point-of-care-ultrasound (POCUS) in acute care settings is benefitted by early medical school integration and fellowship training

J Osteopath Med. 2022 Sep 20. doi: 10.1515/jom-2021-0273. Online ahead of print.


Context: Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has widespread utilization in multiple clinical settings. It has been shown to positively influence clinician confidence in diagnosis and can help appropriately manage patients in acute care settings. There has been a growing trend of increased emphasis on incorporating POCUS training in the first 2 years of the medical school curriculum.

Objectives: This article aims to analyze the clinical use of POCUS in acute settings and how training early in medical school may strengthen clinician confidence and utilization.

Methods: An anonymous 10-question survey on POCUS use was conducted via a secure online platform and distributed to board-certified practicing physicians (MDs and DOs) with educational agreements with Midwestern University (MWU) across acute care specialties. This included preceptors within the MWU graduate medical education clinical consortium. Survey questions were aimed at assessing frequency of use, machine type, reasons for utilizing POCUS, initial ultrasound training, confidence in performing/interpreting POCUS, and perceived impact on patient outcomes. Surveys less than 50% complete were excluded. All surveys returned were more than 50% complete and thus included in the study. Statistical analyses were conducted utilizing the statistical software R version 4.0.

Results: Surveys were sent out to 187 participants with 68 responses (36.4% response rate). The survey results demonstrated a relationship between learning POCUS earlier in one's medical career (medical school, residency, or fellowship) to increased use in acute settings when compared to learning POCUS during clinical practice. Of the 68 respondents, 65 (95.6%) indicated that they agree or strongly agree that POCUS use improves patient care, and 64 (94.1%) indicated that they agree or strongly agree that the use of POCUS can improve patient outcomes.

Conclusions: Our survey of acute care physicians indicated that most respondents utilize POCUS daily or weekly (90.8%), and this was related to fewer years of practice (under 10 years from medical school graduation, 94.6%). Moreover, POCUS was utilized primarily in acute care settings for procedures (25%, n=17/68 respondents). These survey results indicate that early integration of POCUS education in osteopathic medical school curricula and throughout fellowship training could likely enhance POCUS utilization in acute care settings.

Keywords: acute care; continuing medical education; medical school curriculum; point-of-care ultrasound; ultrasonography.