In general, ultrasounds have numerous benefits in medical settings because they can be used to diagnose problems that do not appear on x-ray, and they are less expensive than some diagnostic imaging tests. With portable ultrasounds, the ease of diagnosis and accessibility of diagnostic imaging makes this an ideal tool for many care settings.
Mobile Care Settings
Many clinical settings for the uninsured do not have a stand-alone facility. They may offer clinical services in large vans or work with agencies to set up the clinic in churches or community centers. Since medical personnel must render care in any number of environments, a portable ultrasound machine is a good addition to aid in diagnosing various conditions that may come through the door. Some common situations may include acute orthopedic injuries. Medical professionals trained in ultrasound technology can quickly make a diagnosis of soft tissue injuries and determine if a referral to an orthopedic specialist is necessary. In some cases, a preliminary diagnosis with ultrasound can be used to determine if more expensive diagnostic testing is necessary, such as an MRI.
Although many clinical settings are designed for the uninsured, it does not mean these patients will not incur out-of-pocket costs when referred to specialists or for further imaging tests. With more information about the patient's condition, medical personnel can make an informed decision whether a referral or further testing is worth the additional financial burden for the patient.
Mission trips to render care in other countries may have similarities to mobile care settings, such as the need for portable equipment. In these situations, making an accurate diagnosis on the spot and rendering care is even more important since access to medical care is often limited to a few days or one week and rendered by volunteers. Bringing a portable ultrasound machine can be useful in diagnosing chronic conditions, such as heart problems, and can give some expectant mothers their only opportunity to view their unborn child.
When considering obstetrics, ultrasound may be invaluable to anticipate problems with labor that may go unnoticed until the time of delivery, such as the baby being in a breech position. For remote locations where hospitals are a long distance away, volunteers might make the decision to escort an expectant mother or another person with a significant health condition to a hospital before problems escalate.
Some elements of emergency care and stabilization are necessary before a patient ever reaches the emergency room. For example, ambulances and medical flights need to stabilize patients before and during transport in addition to giving emergency room personnel details about the patient to help them prepare for their arrival. Portable ultrasound machines can be useful to aid in identifying significant injuries before the patient arrives at the emergency room.
One such injury is bleeding in the thoracic, abdominal, and/or pelvic cavities that may occur without obvious external injuries. Identifying free fluid or blood within these cavities may be consistent with liver laceration or rupture of major blood vessels. Identifying these problems quickly can minimize the amount of time patients are in the emergency room before being sent up to radiology for further testing or to the operating room for repairs.
Ultrasound may also be useful when transporting patients to another care facility, such as a specialized trauma or burn center. In such cases, a patient is initially stabilized by the current medical facility, but they will need continuous monitoring while in-route, typically via medical flight. Nurses or doctors who are part of the flight crew can have easy access to monitoring the patient for new signs of bleeding or failure of initial repairs, if this is a current concern.
If your medical care facility does not have a portable ultrasound machine or only has limited access to one, you may consider investing in additional machines due to their widespread use. Increasing access to ultrasound in mobile care environments or remote locations can improve quality of care and ease of diagnosis.