From the July 2023 issue of DOTmed Equipment Classifieds magazine
Ultrasound Device Standardization
The Unforeseen Digital Solution to a Mounting Problem
An old saying goes that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and in the healthcare world right now, efficiency is a necessity that is especially valuable. Clinicians are being asked to do more complicated scans and treatments, handle an influx of patients, all while facing a shortage of experienced staff. It’s a classic case of having to do more with less.
But an added challenge is this: clinicians and managers don’t always have time, tools or ways to make their workflows more efficient. Packed schedules push them forward into the next day without being able to catch their breath. This is especially true of the ultrasound space, which is booming thanks to its cost-effectiveness and applicability to numerous applications.
If this situation sounds dire, it is, but there are solutions to help. That's because while clinicians were focusing on doing their best to deliver care, GE Healthcare was focused on the efficiency component. The result is a set of digital tools clinicians never knew they needed. Tools that have the power to reshape clinical workflows forever.
Equipment Standardization: The Gold Standard of Efficiency
When it comes to efficiency, GE Healthcare Global Product Manager Ankit Goyal knows where to start: “One of the biggest needs of the industry, in the case of enterprise hospitals, is that they look for standardization.” That means equipment is consistent with the same protocols for conducting scans and procedures. The benefit is twofold: clinicians can have the assurance that every machine will work the same, and the machines will produce standardized scans and results across the system. Ultimately, the easiest step to efficiency is equipment standardization.
With current labor challenges, and a lack of staff—and certainly a lack of experienced staff—standardization can give clinicians more confidence, optimizing training and minimizing downtime to learn new machines. Goyal adds, “Staff availability itself is a big challenge in the industry today. And if you have standardization across your fleet, you can rotate your staff across hospitals and they get the same experience in front of each console.”
Standardized equipment can also lead to better patient care, since it minimizes variation between clinicians and consoles. When patients come in, they want to know that the ultrasound machine is updated and consistent. With everything operating under a straightforward protocol, it makes results more uniform, decreases confusion, and also optimizes scheduling with fewer call-backs.
Standardization, while ideal, is very hard to achieve. With new protocols, software updates and equipment changes over time, the reality is most of a hospital's installed base is not consistent. And up until now, standardization was a manual process. That sometimes meant driving for hours to different hospitals and sites to update systems.
When physicians such as radiologists, cardiologists, and OB/GYNs know that it’s a huge undertaking to update consoles across a hospital system, they get comfortable with the status quo. It had become common practice for equipment to receive updates twice a year, but with cloud-based digital tools like AVURI™ from GE Healthcare, systems are optimizing protocols as often as weekly.
But the demand for frequent updates is there, according to GE Healthcare General Manager of Ultrasound Ecosystems Ryan Dobbe: “They want to do it more. They just didn't have the capability to do it more because it was too costly. That whole aspect of maintaining standardization on your fleet now is a much more real thing.”
And it doesn’t just save labor when it comes to conducting scans. Remote standardization also keeps staff from having to take road trips across regions, so it also saves time and money in eliminating that part of the process. In summary, as Goyal explains, “AVURI helps you to make updates on one console, upload it to the cloud, and then push it to your entire fleet with a few clicks. So there’s a lot of efficiency through time savings with no travel time and no impact to exam scheduling.“
Efficiency That’s More Than a Drop in the Bucket
Improving processes doesn’t make much of a difference if it’s just one unit or a few clinicians, but it can change everything if it’s implemented across the network. That’s the true benefit of cloud-based digital tools, because they can remotely affect all consoles and processes throughout the system.
When Goyal presented AVURI digital tools to a prominent hospital system, he appreciated their response: “This is going to be a game changer for us because all hospitals, all large enterprises today are tamped down on financial pressures, and efficiency across the board is key. So if there is any way for them to do things faster with less cost, they would run for such solutions.”
More Support Means a Better Clinician Experience
A workflow is only as good as the people executing it. In a time when clinicians are stretched thin, having the confidence of streamlined workflows can make a huge difference.
GE Healthcare’s Senior Marketing Manager, Eddie Henry, points to the impact of digital tools on ultrasound users: “It's raised user satisfaction, both at the sonographer level—the people that interact with the patient—the protocol managers who are in the middle, and then the radiologists eventually read and dictate the report. The whole chain is affected and benefits all the clinicians and their clinical workflow.”
When you remove variables and extra steps, it frees up staff to do what they do best, take care of patients.
Making a Change to Make an Impact
So, if hospital systems are looking to streamline processes with digital tools, they might be wondering how to get started.
"First and foremost, get your devices connected to the cloud. That's a big enabler," advises Goyal. Cloud integration allows for systems like AVURI to be implemented seamlessly across a system.
He adds, “The second thing is device type consistency. You may think it’s good to put your eggs in multiple baskets, but you're not really leveraging the value of having one manufacturer.” Many manufacturers can integrate with others, but having a one manufacturer system can unlock improved efficiency.
The Game Changer They Never Knew They Needed
One aspect of a shift to digital is that manufacturers like GE HealthCare are creating solutions to solve for current clinical and workflow challenges.
This is life changing for some people,” Dobbe exclaimed. “Imagine someone has to drive for hundreds of miles to do machine updates or a clinician has to learn a new console each time they sit down for a procedure, and now they don’t have to. Now they’re thinking, ‘I get all this time and energy back to focus on what’s more important.’”
And in this case, as in all cases in healthcare, the patient and the outcomes are more important. When equipment is spurring teams on instead of holding them back, the true beneficiary is the patient who is in need.
© 2023 GE HealthCare.
Avuri is a trademark of GE HealthCare. GE is a trademark of the General Electric Company used under trademark license. JB23676XX