Ultrasounds star is on the rise

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Candace Stuart, Editor

Ultrasound recently received two thumbs up in separate reports, garnering attention as a lower-cost, lower-radiation dose modality.

First, the Joint Commission recommended that imaging techniques, such as ultrasound or MRI, be used instead of CT to cut back on patients’ exposure to radiation over time, and a marketing firm noted that insurers are beginning to see ultrasound as a cost-effective alternative to CT.

The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert to persuade healthcare providers to look carefully at the use of diagnostic radiation. The numbers support the alert’s concern: Exposure of ionizing radiation to the U.S. population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years.

The commission also advised that radiologists and referring physicians work together to ensure a patient undergoes a diagnostic imaging procedure that balances best results with least risks.

Likewise, ultrasound gained the limelight in a recent KLAS report, “Ultrasound 2011-Innovation on the Move.” KLAS was motivated by two recent trends: patients becoming more aware and concerned about their lifetime exposure to radiation and associated cancer risks, and insurance carriers looking for opportunities to trim costs for coverage of diagnostic screenings.

The KLAS report listed ultrasound vendors and their offerings, while analyzing how the various vendor products perform. The report includes survey results from 237 respondents, most of whom were sonographers or radiologists working in facilities with 500 beds or less.

Expect to hear more about ultrasound, according to one of the report’s authors, Emily Crane. Research already is pointing to seven-figure potential savings by using ultrasound in appendicitis evaluations. She predicted the number of ultrasound scans will rise in the near future.

If this trend rings true, or runs contrary, for your facility, please let us know.

Candace Stuart, Editor
cstuart@trimedmedia.com