Practitioners from a wide range of medical and surgical subspecialties are now training to preform and interpret a variety of different bedside ultrasounds for diagnostic and procedural purposes.
Mobile ultrasound is also on the horizon as devices get smaller and more affordable.
Ultrasound Education is a popular and growing field that lends itself well to multimedia focused online learning. There are multiple apps available to teach bedside ultrasound.
SonoAccess is a free iPhone app made by SonoSite, an ultrasound device manufacturer, that features images and videos to teach common diagnostic and procedural ultrasound techniques.
Disclosure: I use Sonosite machines in my residency program, but have no financial or other ties to the company.
The app divides multimedia into Coach, Cases, and Images. Within each category, there are 20 subdivisions for different specialities and focuses, from Emergency Medicine to Global Health to Sports Medicine. Once a specialty is selected, media is further subdivided by anatomy.
The Coach section focuses on techniques on how to preform specific bedside ultrasound. Some coach videos use 3-D anatomic models side-by-side with realtime ultrasound images to demonstrate technique. Other scans are taught by a live instructor, with video showing the probe orientation on the patient interspersed with ultrasound images.
Important anatomic structures are highlighted for emphasis. The narration describes each technique using anatomic vocabulary for orientation.
For ultrasound beginners, it can be very difficult to understand the relationship between the orientation of the ultrasound probe and the anatomic structures seen in ultrasound images. Clear, methodical descriptions are very helpful in visualizing anterior/posterior and medial/lateral orientations in sagittal/longitudinal and transverse planes.
The Cases section focuses on how to interpret the images obtained using techniques demonstrated by the Coach videos and contains video lectures on normal and pathological ultrasound cases. Most videos are from a series called “Soundbytes Cases” by Dr. Phillips Perera, an RDMS credentialed Emergency Physician.
These talks are presented as narrated slides that contain ultrasound images and videos. Videos are about 5-10 minutes long and are broken down into different elements of particular system. For example, there are three separate cases about gallbladder ultrasound: an introduction, gallstones, and cholecystitis.
The Images section contains still images broken down by anatomic system. Some images have labels, while others have none. There are no text descriptions or narrations available with the images.
- Extensive multimedia collections of useful ultrasound techniques and cases relevant in a variety of clinical settings.
- The Images section is of limited use without image descriptions in a clinical context.
- The app is buggy and often shuts down without warning.
- Whenever the device is locked mid-video, the video stops and has to be restarted from the beginning.
- There is no way to save specific ultrasounds to the “My cases” tabs – they are automatically populated with all cases from the subspecialty selected.
Healthcare providers that would benefit from the app
- All providers training to preform bedside ultrasounds.
I was initially suspicious of an educational app presented by a ultrasound manufacturer. Learning from this app will indeed bias the learner by familiarizing them with SonoSite’s machines, but the clinical teaching gleaned from the videos could be applied to bedside ultrasound using any machine – a gallstone is a gallstone regardless of what type of screen it’s on.
Though the videos are excellent, I did not enjoy viewing them through this app. SonoAccess falls short in allowing users to navigate the content easily. I would prefer to watch the videos on the web using my laptop because of the larger screen and easier navigation. The SonoSite website has many of the Coach videos, but unfortunately I could not find the SoundBytes cases for free on the web.
Theoretically, an iPhone app would be ideal for bedside teaching, but I think the comprehensive videos from SonoAccess are best used for self-study. One Minute Ultrasound is another free app that I prefer over SonoAccess for bedside teaching. One minute videos show real time scanning technique alongside normal and pathological ultrasound images. These short reviews are saved on your device – no wifi or data connection necessary.
Rating: (1 to 5 stars) 3.5 stars
- User Interface – 2 – Buggy, overlying subdivided.
- Multimedia usage – 4 – Videos are excellent, but the app itself falls short.
- Price – 5 – Free.
- Real world applicability – 3 – Good for self study with a good wifi or cellular data connection. Not useful at the bedside, where a connection may be unreliable and time is limited.