Imagine the impact on healthcare in this country and around the world if all healthcare providers were equipped with a diagnostic and patient-management tool with the extraordinary power of ultrasound. Access to care would be improved, especially in under-served areas, quality of care would be improved across virtually every area of medicine, patient safety would be improved almost overnight, and the cost of healthcare could be decreased if the tool were used wisely.
Horace Mann, the great American education reformer, said “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” What a victory for humanity it would be to improve healthcare for billions of people throughout the world. As educators and practitioners of ultrasound, we are in a position to win a huge victory for humanity if we collectively embrace the “victory goal” of improved healthcare for all with ultrasound.
I believe the place to start in the quest for this victory for humanity is with education. There are many we must educate about ultrasound—healthcare practitioners of virtually every specialty and at every level of healthcare provision and training; those who teach healthcare providers; those who make decisions concerning healthcare education, practice, financing, and regulations; biomedical researchers and the healthcare industry; and those who will ultimately be the greatest beneficiaries of every practitioner competently using ultrasound: patients and their families.
There are roles for all of us in the education of this diverse group of players. I would encourage you to give some thought to how you might help individuals in these various groups understand the power of ultrasound to transform healthcare. At the core of this transformation will need to be excellent education of all ultrasound practitioners at all levels of service they provide. This will require pooling the knowledge, skill, experience, and wisdom of all involved in ultrasound regardless of specialty, level of practice, or global location.
However, even with excellent education, I do not believe we can achieve this victory for humanity without the engagement and support of our colleagues in primary care. According to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2014, one-third of the almost 850,000 active physicians in the United States were Family Physicians, Internists, or Pediatricians. These are the 3 specialties usually classified as primary care providers but other specialties such as Emergency Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology also regularly provide primary care. There is also an increasing percentage of primary care being provided and supported by other healthcare providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as sonographers, midwives, medics, and emergency medical technicians. Thus, primary care providers as a group are the largest group of healthcare professionals in the country and probably the world.
On the frontlines of healthcare, these primary care practitioners can have an immediate and profound impact on healthcare through the use of ultrasound. It is very encouraging to note that within the various primary care sectors there are now champions of ultrasound emerging among both general membership as well as leadership as evidenced by the initiation of ultrasound interest groups and associated ultrasound societies in organizations such as the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Practitioners, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. And kudos to the AIUM, its leadership, and membership for all they have done and are doing in education and in welcoming our primary care colleagues into our ultrasound family. We need to support the ultrasound efforts of these individuals and organizations and other organizations in any way we can. Working together we can take ultrasound education and practice to a level that will ensure a great victory for all of humanity.
In conclusion, as quoted by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
What are your thoughts on ways to support the ultrasound efforts of primary care practitioners? How can medical education be modified to encourage the widespread use of ultrasound by future primary care practitioners? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Richard Hoppmann, MD, FACP, is Professor of Medicine, Past Dean, and Director of the Ultrasound Institute at University of South Carolina School of Medicine.