By Peter Bonadonna

At a time when healthcare professionals are being heralded as heroes, there’s never been a better moment to spotlight their work and reflect on healthcare innovations that are helping make a big impact to their efforts. One of these tools, (a tool I am a huge advocate of), is the handheld ultrasound. Benefits abound, handheld ultrasounds are easy to use, are extremely agile and give providers the ability to see the unseen – basically it helps turn our healthcare heroes into superheroes.

Now that COVID-19 is putting a major spotlight on the stresses being placed on the healthcare system, we’re seeing technology drive rapid change – notability in helping evaluate and monitor patients with the disease. Handheld ultrasound has been at the forefront of the coronavirus battle, stepping in for less accessible and harder to sanitize CT scans and providing doctors with immediate information to help treat sick patients. It’s been amazing to witness and has validated my years of advocacy for the technology. Handheld ultrasounds are portable and can be easily used in ambulances*, field hospitals, in the ER and doctor’s offices alike. They’re easy to learn how to use, are faster than traditional X-Rays and CT scans, and they do not expose patients to ionized radiation. They’re also easy to clean. The benefits speak for themselves.

We’ve now seen the real impact POCUS has on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. One cardiac imaging director reported handheld ultrasound is meeting 90% of their scanning needs for COVID-19 patients. Vscan Extend™ in particular has helped clinicians with quicker images and has limited the risk of exposure within hospitals across the US, Europe and in Asia facing COVID-19.

When you think of current conditions for healthcare workers in the ED, the benefits of handheld ultrasound become even more pronounced. With PPE literally weighing down healthcare workers, the portability and lightweight nature of Vscan Extend means it’s being used more by doctors and nurses. Vscan Extend is used on the front lines to help triage sick patients by adding to their normal physical exam to obtain information to answer their yes or no questions regarding the state of the heart, the lungs etc.

Another benefit handheld ultrasound offers hospitals with COVID-19 patients is the ability to reduce patients that require CTs by ruling out those that do not need this level of testing. This is important for a couple reasons, including the fact that CT’s used for COVID-19 patients have very specific protocols to maintain patient safety. When a COVID-19 patient enters a radiology room, that room requires a HEPA filter to be used for 37 minutes after a patient leaves to clean the environment. This limits the number of patients that can get a CT and handheld ultrasounds are being used to identify who does or does not require a CT scan.

Once we have overcome this pandemic, I believe we’ll see a massive investment in healthcare technologies like handheld ultrasounds and other healthcare innovations will continue to see faster than expected adoption. At the same time, I expect patient demand for tools like Point-Of-Care (POC) ultrasound will increase dramatically.

* The device has been verified for limited use outside of professional healthcare facilities. Use is restricted to environmental properties described in the user manual. Please contact your GE Healthcare sales representative for detailed information.