Short Communication

Point-of-care ultrasound in general practice: an exploratory study in rural South Australia


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Hamish Phillips
1 MBBS, Intern

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Nitya Sukheja
2 Medical Student

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Susan Williams
3 PhD, Researcher *

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Adina La Forgia
4 MBBS, RACGP rural pathway registrar ORCID logo

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Garry Nixon

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Lawrence A McArthur
6 PhD, Director ORCID logo

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David A Gonzalez-Chica
7 PhD, Head of Research ORCID logo

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Lucie Walters
8 FACRRM, Director, Adelaide Rural Clinical School ORCID logo


1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 Adelaide Rural Clinical School, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia

5 Section of Rural Health, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

6 General Practice Training, College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia

ACCEPTED: 23 October 2022

early abstract:

Background: Access to ultrasound imaging services is limited in rural areas and Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) has the potential to address this gap. We aimed to examine how POCUS is utilised by doctors in contemporary Australian rural general practice.  
Methods:  A portable ultrasound machine and access to a training course was provided to four general practices in rural South Australia, and the type and frequency of POCUS scans were recorded, along with user information, between July 2020-June 2021. Participating general practitioners (GPs) completed a survey at the commencement of the study regarding their previous experience and confidence in using POCUS for specific assessments and procedures.
Results: Of the 472 scans recorded, most (95%) were for clinical indications, 3% for teaching activities and 2% for self-learning. Overall, 69% were obstetric scans, followed by abdominal (12%), gynaecological procedures (10%), other procedural (7%), and thoracic exams (1.5%). Users reported higher confidence for lower complexity POCUS.
Conclusion: Although POCUS has diverse potential applications in rural practice, GPs reported limited confidence for certain scans and used POCUS predominantly for obstetric indications. Further studies should examine the barriers to POCUS utilisation, with particular attention to training requirements, reimbursement for use, and access to machines.