Remote tele-mentored ultrasound for non-physician learners usingFaceTime: A feasibility study in a low-income country

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Abstract

Purpose

Ultrasound (US) is a burgeoning diagnostic tool and is often the only available imaging modality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, bedside providers often lack training to acquire or interpret US images. We conducted a study to determine if a remote tele-intensivist could mentor geographically removed LMIC providers to obtain quality and clinically useful US images.

Materials and methods

Nine Haitian non-physician health care workers received a 20-minute training on basic US techniques. A volunteer was connected to an intensivist located in the USA via FaceTime. The intensivist remotely instructed the non-physicians to ultrasound five anatomic sites. The tele-intensivist evaluated the image quality and clinical utility of performing tele-ultrasound in a LMIC.

Results

The intensivist agreed (defined as “agree” or “strongly agree” on a five-point Likert scale) that 90% (57/63) of the FaceTime images were high quality. The intensivist felt comfortable making clinical decisions using FaceTime images 89% (56/63) of the time.

Conclusions

Non-physicians can feasibly obtain high-quality and clinically relevant US images using video chat software in LMICs. Commercially available software can connect providers in institutions in LMICs to geographically removed intensivists at a relatively low cost and without the need for extensive training of local providers.

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