Point-of-care ultrasound: Deploying in primary care



Two weeks ago, I saw a man with a swollen left leg in the office. It took me 2 days to get a Doppler study completed in my busy health care system. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) would have been invaluable for this gentleman. As we know, though, POCUS has been “slow to grow” in primary care. However, as this month’s cover story suggests, things are changing.

Since the 1970s, ultrasound has been a standard diagnostic tool for many conditions. Initially considered the domain of radiologists and cardiologists with extensive training, technologic advances now allow accurate interpretation of ultrasound images by generalist physicians with a modest amount of training.

Hopefully point-of-care ultrasound will become a standard part of family medicine training and practice sooner, rather than later.

One of the first references to POCUS in general practice in the United States was published in 1988.1 Use of ultrasound in family medicine has developed slowly over the past 30 years, due to the high cost of equipment, a lack of training as a formal component of family medicine residency curricula, and a lack of evidence of its effectiveness in office practice. Only 6% of practicing family physicians (FPs) reported using non-obstetric POCUS in their practices in 2016, and only 2% of family medicine residency programs had established POCUS curricula in 2015.2,3

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