Optimizing digital ultrasound for improved workflow efficiency and patient care

Medical imaging plays a key role in a patient’s care journey from initial diagnosis through follow-up care. The World Health Organization estimates 3.6 billion imaging exams are performed each year globally.[1] As patient populations age and live longer, the prevalence of chronic diseases is expected to increase. But with continuing advancements in medical imaging, including digital ultrasound, clinicians may be able to diagnose diseases earlier and potentially improve patient outcomes.

Identifying workflow and efficiency challenges in healthcare

Today’s healthcare providers are faced with shifting dynamics shaping the industry’s evolution and digital transformation. As they work to find the best ways to improve patient outcomes, clinicians are also trying to manage limited staffing, supply shortages, and high levels of staff burnout.

Improving access to care continues to be a critical focus worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of a distributed work and care delivery model in healthcare. It also highlighted areas for improvement, such as connectivity and workflow efficiencies, that could have a substantial impact in areas such as radiology. Digitization, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced imaging technology are paving the way for smaller fixed systems, portable systems, and even handheld systems, such as in ultrasound.

Improve clinical and workflow efficiency with digital ultrasound solutions

As an industry leader, GE HealthCare’s digital ultrasound solutions support clinicians in many clinical areas, including radiology, OB/GYN, cardiology, musculoskeletal, breast, and primary care. They collaborate with customers to meet their changing needs and develop solutions that support clinical diagnostics, such as point-of-care solutions or handheld devices, while helping to improve patient outcomes.

“We’re entering a new era in medical imaging,” said Roland Rott, President and CEO of Ultrasound at GE HealthCare. “We’re bringing game-changing solutions to our customers to create a world where healthcare has no limits. Integrating AI and digital technology to ultrasound allows our customers to improve efficiencies and expand clinical capabilities.”

Across general ultrasound imaging as well as specialized areas, innovations in imaging technologies are supporting clinicians with advanced visualization, easy measurements, and automation of repetitive tasks to improve workflow. The progress in ultrasound continues with the implementation of AI-enabled solutions.

GE HealthCare is a leader in the development of AI-enabled solutions and supports clinicians with digital ultrasound advancements that provide not only state-of-the-art imaging technology but also user-centric features that optimize the clinical workflow. Their digital ultrasound technology is scalable and upgradeable so that customers can meet the needs of today’s patient communities as well as plan to expand capabilities in the future.

In breast care, for example, breast ultrasound integrates AI-enabled tools, such as for detection, to streamline workflow and improve diagnoses. The AI application, used with GE HealthCare’s digital ultrasound, is a collection of AI algorithms trained by more than two million images to help clinicians by highlighting suspicious findings in breast ultrasound images. It can analyze more than 17,000 features and provides an AI-based quantitative risk assessment for each patient that aligns with a BI-RADS® ATLAS category.[2] This solution is effective in flagging suspicious exams and saving time for reading physicians.

Spotlight: How St. Luke’s University Health Network standardized their ultrasound workflow

A health system known for integrated care, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN), collaborated with GE HealthCare to access the latest digital ultrasound technology for imaging services.  They implemented a digital ultrasound platform with enhanced integration and collaboration tools that would support them into the future.

SLUHN delivers care to patients across 14 campuses and more than 300 sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and has an employee base of more than 18,000 people.[3] The ultrasound team at SLUHN wanted to optimize operational efficiencies while ensuring consistency in image quality and reporting across its campuses. The focus areas to optimize included patient care, imaging, and reporting to drive improved and consistent outcomes regardless of location or sonographer experience level.

“We had begun a journey to optimize efficiency and quality in ultrasound,” explained Mary Whitsett, Clinical Ultrasound Specialist at SLUHN. “Our first step [in the process] was to harmonize the ultrasound systems we were using across our sites with the LOGIQ E10, and once we did that, we were able to standardize our imaging protocols.”

The SLUHN ultrasound team was able to expand their ultrasound services into new clinical areas by installing a new fleet of digital ultrasound technology and supporting software for standardization and workflow efficiencies. Previously, a sonographer would need to travel to each location and physically update the protocols on each unit. But with AI-based software tools such as GE HealthCare’s protocol standardization solution, ultrasound protocols can be standardized easily across the entire fleet.

AI-enabled solutions are also helping to alleviate staffing challenges in ultrasound with automated protocol selection. This automation can benefit a staff with varying levels of experience as it was designed to facilitate the process.

“[Sonographers] are following a stepwise protocol for each exam,” Whitsett said, “and when images are acquired in the same order across sites, the consistency it creates also helps from a reading perspective.”

Leveraging collaboration tools to increase workflow efficiencies

Standardization of work and reporting may reduce instances of missing data and mistakes that often create more work. Automated communication tools included with the ultrasound system integrate data directly with the network’s electronic health record and support clinical collaboration. Sonographers are also able to use the technology to get real-time assistance during an exam if they need it.

One clinician who collaborated with GE HealthCare to develop their standardization and acquisition tools in ultrasound shared the benefits that his health system experienced as a result of implementation.

“Our data analysis shows that our technologists were twice as efficient using standardization and acquisition tools,” noted Dr. Jason Wiesner, diagnostic Imaging Service Line Medical Director and Executive Director of Imaging Informatics at Sutter Health in Sacramento, California.

“The technologists are spending more time with the patient, and the radiologists are spending more time looking at images and less time on the Dictaphone,” he continued. “Financially speaking, we’re seeing fewer errors due to standardized protocols and reporting templates based on what our sonographers were able to focus on. Previously, we were leaving work on the table.”

Improving access to ultrasound imaging with portable and handheld systems

While innovations in ultrasound can better prepare providers for increasing demands for imaging services, they may also improve access to care via portable products and even a handheld ultrasound scanner.

“Providers can make some very exciting progress in improving access to care with the achievement of a miniaturized ultrasound device that can perform a full-body scan,” Rott explained. “Portable and handheld ultrasound can be brought directly to the bedside for the safest and most optimal care delivery.”

Point-of-care ultrasound is increasing in adoption as care delivery continues to be more decentralized. Success in this environment, however, is highly dependent on centralized management of protocols and an efficient workflow that optimizes productivity and reduces the potential for errors.

“In our environment today,” Dr. Wiesner explained, “the systems in healthcare are not typically networked in a way that will allow that to happen.”

As industry partners like GE HealthCare continue to innovate in ultrasound and across medical imaging, they’re supporting clinicians and evolving the healthcare environment with smart, scalable imaging platforms that can continue to deliver innovative solutions as they are developed. Clinicians can depend on these developments to eliminate the limitations in care delivery, provide the most optimal care for all patients, and help improve patient care.


Please view related on-demand recent presentations from GE HealthCare’s leadership in ultrasound as well as clinicians sharing their perspectives and experiences:



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[1] To X-ray or not to X-ray? World Health Organization. Published April 14, 2016. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/to-x-ray-or-not-to-x-ray-. Accessed February 10, 2023.

[2] Koios DS Breast. Koios. https://koiosmedical.com/products/koios-ds-breast/. Accessed February 10, 2023.

[3] St. Luke’s University Health Network. https://www.slhn.org/. Accessed February 10, 2023.