SonoSim introduces ultrasound training solution


The literature is abundant in terms of demonstrating that point-of-care ultrasound saves lives, says Dan Katz, MD, an emergency room physician by training and the vice president of sales and product development for online medical education company, SonoSim Inc, Santa Monica, Calif.

As an example of what point-of-care ultrasound can do, he points to the case of a 24-year old woman who comes in to the emergency room with abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, unaware that she’s pregnant. She has, in fact, a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which could take hours to diagnose if physicians go through the process of formally ordering an ultrasound. “In our emergency department we’ll do an immediate point-of-care ultrasound,” Katz says. “And we can diagnose that problem immediately and get that patient into the operating room and save her life.”

So the question is, Katz says, if ultrasound is such a great technology, and is getting better and less expensive, “why isn’t everybody using it? Why doesn’t every doctor, instead of having a stethoscope around his neck, wear some kind of ultrasound unit around his neck? And why isn’t there an application that can turn a [smartphone] into an ultrasound machine?”

Katz says that while there are companies working on these technology issues (GE Healthcare’s Vscan pocket-sized ultrasound, for example), he believes the major barrier to adopting point-of-care ultrasound is education.

With that in mind SonoSim has produced the The SonoSim Ultrasound Training Solution, an ultrasound education approach that allows user to the convert their personal computers into personal ultrasound training solutions. SonoSim introduced it at the recent American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine annual conference in New York.

“It’s very difficult to learn ultrasound,” points out Katz. “It’s very psychomotor oriented. You look at a very vague image on the screen that looks like a snowstorm to the undiscerning eye, and then you have to manipulate a probe in very specific angles or pictures you are looking for.”

Traditional ways of learning ultrasound, Katz says, include reading textbooks. “But unless you actually scan and practice ultrasound with your hands, you really don’t get practical knowledge,” he says. “And there are some really beautiful and elegant high fidelity simulators out there, but the cost ranges from $50,000 to $150,000.”

Would-be ultrasound users can also attend courses—usually on the weekends—that include didactic as well as hands-on training. The problem with these training courses, he says, is that the hands-on training bears little resemblance to the things learned in the classroom, such as what an ectopic pregnancy looks like.

The SonoSim solution provides ultrasound training that combines hands on scanning with a selection of educational courses and real-time performance assessment. Thousand of real patient cases, along with thousands of pathologies are available to learners through the solution’s case library.

The ultrasound “probe” or simulator can be connected to a PC via a USB cable, and can be used on a variety of surfaces according to user preference. By rotating the handheld probe the user will see a virtual probe on screen that will precisely mirror the probe motion and a corresponding probe image is displayed in real time. The system allows the user to correlate ultrasound images with underlying anatomical structures, and also teaches them ultrasound-guided procedures.

“It has three components,” says Katz. “You’ve got the didactic component, so you have lectures. And then you have a knowledge assessment component. And then the really neat part of it is that we’ve created a flight simulator for ultrasound. And it’s all on a laptop computer.” The solution is priced starting at $2,995.

The ideal user of this technology, says Katz, are physicians looking to incorporate ultrasound into their practices at the point of care, such as emergency room doctors, critical care physicians, trauma surgeons, family physicians and physicians who practice within hospital settings. It can also be used for training in medical schools, Katz says, and potentially as part of the curriculum for diagnostic medical sonography students.

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