Use of Point-of-Care Ultrasound in the Emergency Department: Insights From the 2012 Medicare National Payment Data Set

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Point-of-care ultrasound is a valuable tool with potential to expedite diagnoses and improve patient outcomes in the emergency department. However, little is known about national patterns of adoption. This study examined nationwide point-of-care ultrasound reimbursement among emergency medicine (EM) practitioners and examined regional and practitioner level variations.


Data from the 2012 Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Fee-for-Service Provider Utilization and Payment Data include all practitioners who received more than 10 Medicare Part B fee-for-service reimbursements for any Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System code in 2012. Odds ratios (ORs) and descriptive statistics were calculated to assess relationships between ultrasound reimbursement and practice location, nearby presence of an EM residency, and time elapsed since practitioner graduation.


Of 52,928 unique EM practitioners, 391 (0.7%) received limited ultrasound reimbursements for a total of 16,389 scans in 2012. Urban counties had an OR of 5.4 (95% confidence interval, 3.8–7.8) for receiving point-of-care ultrasound reimbursements compared to rural counties. Counties with an EM residency had an OR of 84.7 (95% confidence interval, 42.6–178.8) for reimbursement compared to counties without. The OR for receiving reimbursement was independent of medical school graduation year (P = .83); however, recent graduates performed more scans (P = .02).


A small minority of EM practitioners received reimbursements for point-of-care ultrasound from Medicare beneficiaries. These practitioners were more likely to reside in urban and academic settings. Future efforts should assess the degree to which our findings reflect either low point-of-care ultrasound use or low rates of billing for ultrasound examinations that are performed.

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