Digital health philosopher John Nosta says the promise of digital health and enhanced care is taking shape in many ways—including visual medicine achieved through bedside ultrasound.


Perhaps no other word defines the nature of care in the healthcare system. When it comes to care, it seems that you wait.  Wait for an x-ray.  Wait for a doctor. Wait for a referral. Wait for an ambulance. And then, wait for a care plan. 

Today’s technology offers important advances that can help make significant “connections” in the healthcare system and advance the notion of  “wait” to the expectation of superior care. One clear example of this looming change is the emergence of bedside ultrasound.

What if advances in technology can offer portable ultrasound solutions that can do for medicine what the smart phone has done for society? What if such an extremely portable clinical tool doesn’t replace a conventional ultrasound exam, but adds to the portfolio of ultrasound modalities that have become essential to care?

Such innovation offers more of a quantum leap in clinical practice that impacts care from home medicine to field medicine, pre-hospital care and into the hospital, and develops new affordable and meaningful workflows. The future—almost a page out of a science fiction movie—is here and the ubiquity of just-in-time, bedside ultrasound is just about upon us. And the future will take us even farther as bedside ultrasound has the potential to become “pocket-friendly”—providing a real-time diagnostic tool that is convenient, high resolution and connected—in striking similarity to our smart phones.

Continuity of Care

The natural course of disease is a function of time. Disease progression can be rapid, slow, predicted or random. And a fundamental aspect of care is the first-hand experience of this process. 

From the management of a seizure to an acute myocardial infarction, the progression/resolution of a condition (and the required care) is fundamental to medical training and care. There’s a direct connection between healthcare provider and patient.  And sometimes, this connection and the associated insights can help improve care. The emergence of an S3 gallop or abnormal breath sounds can alert a clinician to subtle, yet important, changes in a patient’s status.

It’s this personal and direct connection that, in some ways, defines the practice of medicine. Bedside, portable ultrasound can help build this bond by providing a simple, real-time connection to the physiology and with the patient. 

Continuity of Control

Bedside ultrasound provides a true sense of efficiency and directly reduces the risks of invasive procedures—like the insertion of a central line or thoracentesis. Bedside ultrasound provides a practical tool that is becoming less an option and more a clinical imperative.  

And control directly translates to patient advantages, too. From the facilitation of a regional nerve block to a heightened level of patient confidence regarding a procedure, control is now redefined and as close as the palm of your hand.

Continuity of Cognition

Vision is a dominant aspect of our sensory perception. And the dedicated neurons in the processing of visual information have been suggested to be in the area of 30%. By contrast, only 8% for touch and 3% for hearing. Yet, we rely on a “sense of touch and feel” for potentially dangerous clinical procedures, such as the insertion of a central line or chest tube. 

Bedside ultrasound allows a clinician to “maximize” cognitive potential by leveraging visual abilities. This “expanded” sensory input can help facilitate an experience that is informed by a more natural sensory input.  The resulting technique is clearly optimized. It’s a logical advance in medicine that takes our sensory input to the next level—it’s visual medicine! A concept that, in theory, is nothing new, but in practice is expanding the technical skills of many healthcare providers—from EMTs to surgeons.

The promise of digital health and enhanced care is taking shape in many ways—from the activity tracker to nanotechnology that can detect disease at extraordinarily early stages. The inclusion of bedside ultrasound in this technological revolution is a perfect example of a “win-win-win” situation. The institution, the clinician and the patient all benefit from point-of-care technology that is as amazing as it is simple!

John Nosta is a digital health philosopher, nuviun strategic advisor, and lead thinker at NostaLab, He has a resonant voice from Forbes to TED, and is a member of the Google Health Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter: @johnnosta.

The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the authors.