Handheld ultrasound devices might be the key to future medical training
Traditional ultrasound teaching is normally delivered using large, costly, and often quite advanced cart-based systems. These carts are often large systems on wheels, usually limited to the departments that own them i.e. clinics, wards, or radiology. Portability has been further improved by the development of laptop-style systems, which are easier to wheel in-between patients/departments. Carts also restrict the amount of training deliverable to practitioners, as they are limited in number due to cost and can take quite some time to boot up, reducing convenience.
This dogma is being progressively changed with the advent of smaller handheld devices, some clearly within the financial grasp of most practitioners, and even to the point of medical schools offering students their own devices. This relative inexpensiveness can lead to the purchase of these devices for novelty and convenience, over need. Obvious caution is needed in these circumstances, but with increased ease of purchase, better availability, and inbuilt simplicity, ultrasound learning can be seamlessly integrated into day-to-day practice.
There is often confusion/debate as to which device is most fit-for-purpose. The below pictures delineate two popular devices from SonoMaxx- MX3 and MX9 and describe their advantages. They have been tried and tested in order to clear up confusion as to which to purchase for institutions or individuals.
MX9 is not only a tool for comprehensive diagnostics but also be better viewed as a tool to extend the physical examination. It can also be a stepping stone for those training to become competent in advanced applications, providing the initial training in image acquisition.
As mentioned, larger cart-based devices can be cumbersome and intimidating, with all of the complex knobs, and sliders, as well as generally much longer boot time than handheld devices. Starting requires a mastery of the basics, its over-complexity can lead to failure to grasp basics as the novice is buried within ‘knobology’.
In our opinion, portable handheld devices like MX9 offer a window in. Most are extremely intuitive to beginners, with many mirroring the skillset required to operate most mobile phones/tablets (swiping, zooming, dragging and operating menus). These skills are almost reflexive; certainly, to the younger generation of medical practitioners. Thus, utilizing a basic inbuilt skillset may give novices a real head-start. Most can operate an android or apple-based phone; most can therefore intuitively operate many of these handheld devices.
Through their affordability, MX9 is also increasingly employed by medical schools both as part of the clinical point of care US curriculum, but also as tools for demonstrating functional anatomy.
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