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Handheld Imaging Solutions: Riding the Accessible Tech Wave

 

If there’s one thing the New Frontier team will always support, it’s efforts to improve access to care and imaging for everyone.

Among these efforts, New Frontier has  joined many in the medical community exploring the advantages and disadvantages of handheld ultrasound imaging scanners that connect to smartphones and tablets. These devices definitely bring advantages to the point of care, and our sonographers are often asked about how these devices could be used effectively.

Here are the key points we suggest care providers take into account when weighing their imaging tech options:

Evolution means Shrinking

Ultrasound technology has come a long way since its introduction to medicine in 1942. From the towering, eight-foot-tall static scanners, technology has advanced, shrunk, evolved and branched out into a variety of available options that serve a much-needed array of purposes. 

The laptop-like machines used by New Frontier’s sonographers are a direct evolution from those original machines, benefitting from dramatic advancements in both portability (size) and quality of imaging. Further miniaturization is the natural evolution for imaging technology. Frankly, pocket-sized scanners aren’t all that new: GE released the clam-shell-like Vscan system in 2009. 

The technology, price point, connectivity and imaging quality has greatly improved since early endeavors into miniaturization, but the ubiquitous presence of smartphones seems to be the primary factor leading to the buzz currently surrounding the tech. 

Like any app, providers need to learn how to use the app in to be proficient, but it’s also critically important to understand the limitations of these devices. 

Immediacy versus Diagnostic Quality

Handheld imaging devices provide excellent quality for immediate answers at the point of care, especially in a life-threatening emergency like a heart attack. 

But for a more thorough diagnostic review of a potential condition, the capabilities of traditional imaging machines are still required. For example, research studies note shortcomings in echocardiography imaging, with drops in resolution and frame rate most apparent when using color Doppler. 

In addition, pocket-sized scanners lack the precise measurement tools and ability to finely tune the image during the procedure, limiting their diagnostic abilities in all but emergency situations. 

Knowing Where to Look

In emergency situations like a heart attack or a blood clot, arming physicians with pocket-sized diagnostic tools definitely provides benefits for patients, giving physicians an immediate and potentially life-saving look at a patient’s condition. 

In addition, handheld imaging solutions familiarize physicians and patients about the capabilities of imaging, showing non-invasive ways that simply “seeing” the body’s functions can answer critical questions for a patient.

But for the long-term diagnosis of conditions, subscribing to an app does not alleviate   the standards set for training, decision support, and final interpretation responsibility required for medical care.

Skilled , certified sonographers are trained using complex protocols that can span hundreds of required views and measurements of an organ such as the heart, providing a “road map” of the views needed for a physician to interpret what is happening within the patient’s body. A thorough map of high quality images taken by an informed technologist is required for a physician to make an informed decision about their patient’s condition.

Supporting Opinions

When care needs to be expedited on-the-spot in an informed way, pocket ultrasounds fill an important gap that can later be followed up for confirmation and detail with more advanced imagery options and experienced study execution. When pathology is found, it’s important that a provider has the supporting knowledge they need to care for the patient. 

As a portable diagnostic company, New Frontier takes quality diagnostic imaging to where the patient needs it, when they need it in doctor’s offices, clinics, and care facilities regardless of how close they are to a hospital or imaging center. Our certified sonographers use hospital-quality technology to capture a complete diagnostic study that is interpreted by the top cardiologists and radiologists in the area, giving providers access to a specialized diagnostic team they can rely upon for their patient’s care.

New Frontier streamlines communication between the ordering physician, sonographer, and interpreting physician, each playing a critical role in the patient’s care that shouldn’t be sacrificed for cost, travel distance, or availability of care.

Buy for Information, Partner for Care

Handheld ultrasound scanners are excellent tools for physicians, especially in emergency situations at the point of care. These tools help physicians and patients understand how imaging can provide a non-invasive “look” at how the body is functioning, possibly giving immediate answers to medical questions. 

Immediacy only outweighs quality and thoroughness in emergency situations, however, and handheld imaging devices do not impart the skills of a certified sonographer, the technical capabilities of dedicated medical devices, or the knowledge of a trained cardiologist or radiologist interpreting the images. 

New Frontier provides the sonographers, technology, and physician knowledge to bring thorough diagnostic imaging services to patients in any practice, clinic, or care facility in Kansas or Missouri.

Contact New Frontier today at (913) 428-9488 to learn how we can support your patients.