AIUM Task Force develops curriculum to standardize ultrasound training for OB/GYN residents

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | January 08, 2018
Ultrasound Women's Health
Exam quality is poor in this field
The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) is on a mission to improve the quality of ultrasound imaging in the obstetric and gynecologic field.

Under the leadership of Dr. Beryl R. Benacerraf, from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, a Task Force of representatives from professional associations, the imaging community, government agencies and insurers was assembled to develop a curriculum that standardizes ultrasound training for OB/GYN residents.

“The problem with ultrasound is that it’s not standardized — it’s in the hands of whoever is holding the probe," Benacerraf, told HCB News. "We are trying to even things out so everybody is comfortable doing a good job.”

The curriculum recommendations were recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, and Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The majority of physicians in Europe perform the ultrasound exams, but sonographers also take on that task in the U.S., Britain and Australia. Benacerraf explained that because they lack the proper training, some physicians rely too heavily on sonographers.

“Back in the old days, when there weren’t that many others forms of imaging, there was a lot of time spent on teaching ultrasound," he said. "Now with so many other things that the residents have to learn, the time devoted to ultrasound has been cut, and so the teaching of ultrasound varies enormously from one program to another.”

The curriculum includes a level-based framework to improve the competence of the trainees, a competency assessment that involves the evaluation of still ultrasound images, movie clips, real-time scanning or a combination of methods that can be implemented by individual programs.

The Task Force also identified possible new approaches to resident training and ways to improve the current inconsistent quality of ultrasound exams:

  • Understanding the role of ultrasound in clinical imaging and the importance of using it first when possible.

  • Ensuring high-quality performance to avoid false positive and false negative findings.

  • Incorporating the curriculum and competency assessment tools in residency programs.

  • Providing information on payor perspectives.

    Benacerraf noted that the curriculum is very broad and comprehensive. Because of that, he suggested that institutions approach it in a "cafeteria-like" manner, in which they only select the things that are important for their program.

    He added that the goal of this curriculum is to improve patient care and cut back on overspending. If the quality of an ultrasound exam is poor, the institution may then have that patient undergo an MR or CT exam for further evaluation.

    "They end up wasting a lot of money, whereas they could have had the answer with ultrasound, had the training been adequate," said Benacerraf.
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