The case for ultrasound in an era of health care reform

March 24, 2014
Kevin M. Goodwin,
president and CEO of
Sonosite Fujifilm
Kevin M. Goodwin, president and CEO of Sonosite Fujifilm, is not shy when it comes to the benefits of ultrasound. He started in sales at ATL Ultrasound in 1987 and then helped lead SonoSite when it was spun-off from ATL in 1998. DOTmed News spoke with Goodwin about how this modality aligns with saving the health care system money and its growth potential going forward.

DMN: How is health care reform going to impact the medical imaging business in general and how might it impact ultrasound in particular?
KG: Absolutely everything being done to patients in the health care process is going to be reconsidered on the basis of necessity. The goal is really to take a fifth of the cost out of the health care system-and that's a big number. Medical devices will be scrutinized and evaluated as to their overall utility. Ultrasound, for instance, is more than just a medical imaging modality: it is a tool that can be used to improve safety, enhance the quality of the patient experience, and save time and money.

DMN: So you're saying that ultrasound is also an economic tool?
KG: Yes, it's going to be a big contributor in the long-term to save our health care system money. We see a lot of evidence of that. For example, in a study of recent Medicare data performed by KNG Health Consulting, we see the possibility of expanded use of ultrasound to diagnose injury to a person's extremities. Even a small increase in the use of ultrasound versus other imaging modalities-just 2.5 percent-saved the Medicare program $34 million.

DMN: Do you feel like ultrasound is going to be a winner, or should be a winner, given its clinical utility and cost effectiveness?
KG: I think ultrasound systems used at the point-of-care just have too many virtues to turn down. There is plenty of evidence that they absolutely affect safety and improve cycle time to producing good clinical results at the bedside. Ultrasound enhances quality and decreases time to diagnosis. It saves patients time and money. And it can save them radiation exposure, too: ultrasound can be used as a frontline tool before other more aggressive imaging modalities. We know for example in orthopedic care, there is no reason to jump to the MRI instinctively every time a rotator cuff tear is suspected.

DMN: What do policymakers need to take into account when considering reimbursement levels for imaging procedures, especially ultrasound?
KG: I think they should be invoking more discipline on the hierarchy of use in ultrasound versus the other modalities in radiology and elsewhere, especially when there are so many downstream benefits to using ultrasound as the first diagnostic test for numerous clinical indications. In diagnosing kidney stones, we found no change between 2006 and 2010 in the use of ultrasound versus CT, even with all the discussion regarding concerns about radiation exposure and the costs of imaging services. There need to be incentives in the reimbursement system to support the clinically appropriate substitution of ultrasound.

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