"Look at this," the anesthesiologist said to his colleague, "it'll give you a good idea of what you need to see when you're performing the needle-guided injection."
The doctor had just pulled out his iPhone. But not to make a call or show a picture of a family. He was showing a demonstration of a complicated medical procedure on an app called SonoAccess from SonoSite. It's iPhone app designed for point-of-care physicians to learn and visualize the many new and emerging applications for ultrasound.
I had the app, too, but hadn't taken a look at it. However, I had just finished training these six anesthesiologists at a local hospital on the SonoSite MicroMaxx portable ultrasound. In the training, we weren't able to do an injection on a live patient, so he pulled out this cool little iPhone app and "wowed" his audience. Obviously, it's no replacement for practice, but it allowed the doctor to provide a good visual of this ultrasound procedure.
I delved into it more and thought I'd share my thoughts here.
Overall, the app is easy to use. On the first load it asks you for minimal contact information, then you're in.
It opens to the "coach" section, which is tailored to the preferences, or "specialty" that you set up in your profile.
The videos are separated by specialty and product. It provides some cool training videos on their products, which are typically a better, visual version of their quickstart guides (also found on the app in text form). However, getting to the videos isn't entirely intuitive. Say you're going to take a look at a video in the "coaches" section... to get there, you'll click on the bottom-left icon that says "coach". Find the video that you want, then click on it. On the left, it shows as a picture of the video or a generic, unspecified document with text describing what you came to see. There's no "click here" or anything of the sort. So, to get to the video, just click on the image or text and you'll get what you need.
Not all videos are created by SonoSite, although a good portion of them are. And it appears not all images in the videos are SonoSite machines in use. Some of these videos are provided by a cool site called SoundBytes. This site, while it states it is subscription-based, also allows you to view free informational videos on various ultrasound procedures. They're informative and helpful videos that are wonderful to help in identifying structures, issues, and landmarks. There are videos on tendons, lower and upper extremity, DVT, pelvic, echo, and many other applications.
The next icon on the SonoAccess app takes you to "cases", which also links to many videos and articles on ultrasound scanning. The videos are helpful, however, many of the documents are quite difficult to read on the iPhone. They're PDF files that are also available on SonoSite's website, and you can look into the SonoSite Virtual classroom. It's much easier to read the documents on a larger computer screen than pinching-and-scrolling on the iPhone. It hurts your eyes. The SonoSite virtual classroom can be frustrating to navigate, but you'll eventually get what you need.
The next icon takes you to "images", which is quite self-explanatory. It's a good resource and saves the effort of running to a computer and evaluating case-studies. In fact, these ultrasound images and videos are quite convenient for those moments in-between cases when you're not quite sure when you'll be needed. You can view them anywhere so long as you have an internet connections (videos and images are downloaded from the internet, not stored on the phone itself).
The last information icon is "guides." Again, while the information is helpful, it's really tough to read on the iPhone. These are PDF files that are already available at SonoSite, so you're really better off looking at them there. It can be really frustrating pinching-and-moving the screen to try and view the document in a font that doesn't require an eagle's eyesight.
These guides include some good information, so don't ignore them. There are very good resources that SonoSite provides on its ultrasound machines (including quick guides), and ultrasound reimbursement info, which seems to be information that is hard-to-get oftentimes. Note that the reimbursement info is based on the national unadjusted physician fee schedule, so it will just give you a good idea of what to expect. There's also good information on these pages regarding other fees and procedures.
Overall, an excellent app that is stable and very informational. SonoSite really stepped ahead of the other manufacturers here by allowing its vast research and resources to be available to the general public. Nice work. Get it here.
Scanning Techniques The Scanning Technique Videos are designed to provide expert techniques and tips for point-of-care ultrasound applications.
Video Case Studies
The Video Case Studies provide an in-depth look into specific cases that you may encounter in your practice.
Clinical Image Gallery
The Clinical Image Gallery is designed to give you a look at expert ultrasound images for anatomy recognition and as a quick comparative reference for you to compare your results to.
The Quick-Start Guides are abbreviated user manuals designed to give new SonoSite users a digital roadmap of their system's controls and features to help navigate the user interface.
The Reimbursement Guides are designed to provide general coverage and payment information for diagnostic ultrasound and ultrasound-guided procedures so you have accurate coding and billing information.