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INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES: Ultrasound demonstrates a considerable utility in the urgent care setting

Posted: Nov 3, 2020
Comments: 0
Author: UCA Admin

Posted by Konica Minolta Healthcare

While urgent care is not meant as a replacement for emergency care, it does provide a timely alternative for medical conditions that need to be treated immediately, such as sprains, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Symptoms like these can be evaluated at an urgent care facility, with the patient being sent home with crutches or referred to a hospital emergency room for further diagnosis.

Assisting urgent care facilities in the diagnostic process has been the introduction of ultrasound. Considered a first-line diagnostic imaging tool, ultrasound is often as “go-to” as the stethoscope in the urgent care environment. Ultrasound is used to rule in or rule out certain problems, giving the healthcare provider the ability to move on to the next appropriate diagnostic step for that patient, based on the ultrasound findings

The addition of ultrasound to the diagnostic tools of an urgent care facility can lead to improved patient outcomes, as well as drive practice growth. Urgent care centers often see patients who return numerous times, with worsening conditions. These repeat visits can be stressful on patients and can be taxing on a center’s resources.

In these situations, ultrasound is an ideal first-line diagnostic tool for clinical applications such as soft-tissue evaluations, vascular access, obstetric assessments, and cardiac and abdominal scans. Ultrasound is a cost-effective, non-ionizing, point-of-care imaging modality that enables clinicians to non-invasively visualize numerous clinical conditions and diagnose faster with confidence.

Ultrasound demonstrates a considerable utility in the urgent care setting. Patients presenting with abdominal pain, for example, could undergo an ultrasound of the gall bladder or urinary tract, turning up areas of concern, even locating kidney stones. Ultrasound also can be used to locate foreign bodies or to detect a build-up of fluid in joints.

Other Benefits

When it comes to workflow, adding ultrasound to urgent care settings can help increase efficiency by reducing wait times. In addition, incorporating the diagnostic capabilities of ultrasound creates a platform for clinical collaboration with colleagues, and builds patient trust. A physical exam alone can lead to misdiagnosis, resulting in incorrect or delayed treatment. In some situations, this can result in a patient’s worsening condition and repeat visits. By providing immediate views of pathology in real time, ultrasound can deliver the information clinicians need for a confident diagnosis, improving patient outcomes and driving growth to the practice.

Urgent Care Sonographers

One question to consider when introducing ultrasound to urgent care is who will be performing the scan. In the urgent care setting, ultrasounds are usually performed by physicians, however physician assistants and nurse practitioners can undergo ultrasound training also. Courses are readily available where medical professionals can gain ultrasound training and become confident in diagnosis. The Konica Minolta Healthcare UGPLearningHub® supports healthcare providers with live and virtual workshops demonstrating hands-on scanning, reviewing examination protocols and identifying common pathology.

Urgent Care Growth

According to UCA, there are about 7,600 urgent care centers in the United States. In most locations, diagnostic imaging is available onsite, with many centers still transitioning from non-

digital to digital x-ray options. Although most centers refer patients out for more advanced imaging, such as ultrasound, a few centers provide this service in-house.

Urgent care facilities are a growing niche that fill an important role in the continuum of healthcare. Urgent care can be a more challenging setting than the ER. In urgent care, a decision needs to be made to take care of the medical situation immediately, send the patient to the ER, or refer the patient to their primary physician for follow up.

Ultrasound can be a differentiator in an urgent care center, with patients wanting care on demand. There are no walk-in hours at the primary care doctor’s office, but patients don’t necessarily need an emergency room visit. When ultrasound is available within urgent care, the patient doesn’t have to call an imaging center to make an appointment. Patients receive quality care in a shorter amount of time, on demand. That’s a win for both patient and provider.

In addition, urgent care centers are continuing to expand their scope of services, incorporating occupational medicine, pediatric care, and telemedicine. The UCA’s benchmarking report found that 1.7% of nearly 300 respondents indicated that they are providing diagnostic ultrasound in their urgent care centers. Use will increase as the modality matures and education is more prevalent.

As patients decide where to go with their sudden healthcare needs, urgent care clinicians are looking for tools to aid in the diagnostic process and enhance their service offerings. Ultrasound could be the differentiator in that decision-making process. 


This blog article is a benefit of UCA's Corporate Support Partners (CSP) program. Thank you to Konica Minolta Healthcare, a bronze Level CSP.


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