Original Article

Point-of-Care Ultrasound Improves Shared Diagnostic Understanding Between Patients and Providers

Authors: Benji K. Mathews, MD, Paula E. Miller, MPH, Andrew P.J. Olson, MD


Objectives: Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has become an integral part of the physical examination. The effect on shared understanding of adding POCUS to the traditional examination is unknown, yet this is an often-described benefit of POCUS. The primary aim of this study was to determine whether the use of POCUS improves shared understanding between providers and patients about patients’ diagnoses.

Methods: This was a prospective controlled trial involving a convenience sample of hospitalized adults. Providers in the control arm performed usual care without POCUS, whereas providers in the study arm had the option to add POCUS. Surveys were administered to the subjects and their providers with questions on patient understanding of symptoms, diagnosis, and main contributors to their health problem. Two independent physicians rated the degree of shared understanding between patient and provider surveys.

Results: Of the 64 patients enrolled in the study, 60 had complete data. There was increased shared understanding between providers and patients with respect to their diagnosis (POCUS 9.56 ± 0.63, non-POCUS 7.62 ± 1.63, P < 0.005) and main contributors (POCUS 9.65 ± 0.77, non-POCUS 8.30 ± 1.13, P < 0.005) in the POCUS arm compared with the non-POCUS arm. Patients also increased the self-rating of their understanding of their health problem in the POCUS arm.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that using POCUS improves patients’ understanding of the diagnostic process. POCUS may be uniquely poised to enhance patients’ understanding of and engagement in that process.

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