Portable Ultrasound Machines For Primary Care Physicians: FAQs On Integrating Ultrasound Technology Into Your Practice

If you are a primary care physician, then you may have been thinking about purchasing a portable ultrasound machine to enable you help your patients more efficiently. While your patients' blood test results and symptom reports can help you pinpoint many illnesses, the ability to also perform a point-of-care ultrasound can help you confirm that diagnosis or realize that a different health problem that you didn't initially suspect may be to blame. However, you may have some unanswered questions about introducing a portable ultrasound machine into your practice that, due to having a busy life and busy practice, you just haven't had time to seek the answers to. Read on to learn answers to some of the questions you may have about adding point-of-care ultrasound technology into your practice.

1. How Much Time Do You Have to Devote to Learning To Use a Portable Ultrasound Machine?

You likely have a very busy schedule and wonder if the time it takes to learn the technology will just be too much to squeeze into your life. First, realize that there are many CME (Continuing Medical Education) courses you can take where you will learn everything you need to know to use your machine while fulfilling your annual or bi-annual state-mandated CME training requirements

An internist reports that she learned point-of-care ultrasound in just three days. She took one class online, then two in a classroom to get the hands-on learning she needed to feel more confident in her ultrasound skills. She also reports that, alternatively, doctors learn ultrasound by taking part in a fellowship opportunity in lieu of the traditional courses, if they prefer. 

2. Will Adding Point-of-Care Ultrasound to Your Practice Make Record Keeping and Billing More Complicated?

You likely already spend more of your day than you would like to completing paperwork and documenting time you spend with patients, so you may worry that using a portable ultrasound machine in your practice would just add more "grunt work" to your day. You may also worry that it will just add more stress to the patient billing experience for your staff, especially when they are dealing with those health insurance companies. 

The truth is that you can choose how you integrate the machine into your practice, and you can choose the method that works best for you. One physician reports that to avoid adding additional documentation to his daily schedule and dealing with insurance companies, he just logs the use and results of his ultrasound scans into his physical exam narrative, which of course, you have to create whether you use the machine or not. He also opts to perform them free of additional charge to his patients or their insurance companies, although there are quick and easy billing codes for the scans he may opt to use in the future. 

Why does he currently use the machine, even though he doesn't charge his patients or their insurance companies? The ultrasounds increase his patients' satisfaction with his services. He states that unlike ultrasounds performed on a large, traditional ultrasound machine, his patients can view the image on the portable machine as he does them, and he can explain exactly what they are looking at in the scan. 

Of course, he also loves that it helps him make more informed medical decisions, which is the reason many other doctors love it. When a patient is suffering from symptoms that may signal a very serious condition or one that is less severe, such as chest pain that could be caused by a variety of physical problems, a look into the patient's heart with the machine can help you determine what the problem is very quickly. 

3. Are Portable Ultrasound Machines Worth the Cost?

Of course, you love caring for patients, but you also want to make wise business investments that pay off in the long run. When determining if a portable ultrasound machine is a wise investment for your practice, realize that there are very affordable portable ultrasound machines on the market. Once you look into their prices, you may wish you had purchased one long ago. In addition, even when purchasing a high-end machine, the use of ultrasound in your practice can keep patients very satisfied; not only will they appreciate the help it gives you making accurate diagnoses, but many patients simply love the experience of viewing their internal organs while getting their regular wellness exams. 

Also, while some doctors may opt not to bill patients' insurance companies for ultrasound service, it is quick and easy to bill them just by utilizing the "limited ultrasound" billing codes that other physicians already use. So in the end, your investment will pay for itself many times over. 

If you are a primary care physician and on-the-fence about a decision to purchase a portable ultrasound machine to use in your practice due to questions you have, then realize that it doesn't have to take long to learn to use the machine and it can greatly improve not just the accuracy of your diagnosis, but also patient satisfaction with your services.