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Establishing an ultrasound-guided vascular access program: A powerful tool for patient care

por Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | March 22, 2022

HCB News: Great, I was going to ask about the patient experience. What does an ultrasound-guided peripheral IV program do for patients in that regard?
RF: This is something most of us have some experience with. If an IV placement goes well, no big deal. But if it’s not inserted correctly on the first try, there can be pain, bruising, and an increased risk of bloodstream infection. There also may be a sharp loss of confidence in the practitioner. It can honestly be traumatic for the patient and the family. That’s particularly true when the patient is a child; children’s veins are notoriously difficult to access.

A positive way to phrase this is that a vascular access program means that IVs are placed quickly and correctly—and that single interaction demonstrably improves patient experience. In a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, for instance, two university hospital emergency departments found that ultrasound-guided peripheral IV programs increased their patient satisfaction scores by 3 points on a 10-point scale versus the traditional landmark approach. Not only are those scores likely to affect whether or not a patient maintains a relationship with their physician, they are likely to have a ripple effect throughout the hospital. Studies, including one published in the Journal of Family Practice found that patients keep or change providers based upon experiences. Relationship quality is a major predictor of patient loyalty. Another study found patients reporting the poorest-quality relationships with their physicians were three times more likely to voluntarily leave the physician's practice than patients with the highest-quality relationships. Moreover, any improvement in patient satisfaction scores is likely to have a ripple effect throughout the hospital.

HCB News: So what you’re talking about is mainly patient perception or family satisfaction.
RF: Yes, those are absolutely paramount. But there’s another aspect here, too: the toll a difficult IV placement takes on the nurse making the attempt. The nurses I know are extremely dedicated and compassionate professionals. It is beyond frustrating for them to have to stick a patient two or three times when, with better tools or training, they could do it on the first try with every patient. I believe that staff satisfaction is an underrecognized benefit of these vascular access programs. We all know how a few extra points on the patient satisfaction scores contribute to the hospital’s bottom line, but staff morale and confidence isn’t measured quite as often. The staff will also appreciate the investment in their personal development as well as a tangible capital asset in the form of their dedicated ultrasound device.

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