Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS): Bridging Healthcare Gaps for Universal Health Coverage
In the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) on Good Health and Well-being, innovative healthcare solutions are paramount.
One such innovation taking centre stage is Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS).
POCUS is not just changing the way we diagnose and treat medical conditions; it's also bringing us closer to achieving healthcare for all.
A recent study conducted by The Lancet and published in their eClinical Medicine journal highlighted the critical role that diagnostic imaging plays in the time-sensitive management of various medical conditions. Unfortunately, in LMICs, diagnostic imaging services are often limited, and the quality of service can vary significantly.
This blog provides a comprehensive overview of the role of POCUS in achieving UHC and SDG 3 while highlighting the vital work of Worldwide Radiology.
The Healthcare Challenges
In many Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), healthcare systems face a myriad of challenges, from limited access to affordable healthcare services to a scarcity of specialised healthcare workers and diagnostic infrastructure in local medical institutions and clinics.
These challenges have been a longstanding obstacle to achieving Universal Health Care (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) on Good Health and Well-being.
The POCUS Revolution
POCUS is a game-changing imaging technology that allows healthcare providers to conduct real-time ultrasound examinations at the patient's bedside. Unlike traditional centralised imaging, POCUS is portable and cost-effective, making it accessible even in remote areas.
Its benefits are numerous:
Speed: POCUS delivers rapid results, crucial in emergency situations.
Early Detection: It aids in early disease detection, preventing complications.
Affordability: POCUS is cost-effective compared to traditional imaging.
Reduced Radiation: It doesn't involve ionising radiation, ensuring safety.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC): A Global Goal.
The 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) recently concluded, with a strong emphasis on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines UHC as ensuring that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, without suffering financial hardship.
Achieving UHC encompasses a continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care across one's lifespan. Key to delivering these services is having health and care workers with an optimal skills mix, equitable distribution, access to quality-assured products, and decent work conditions.
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
SDG 3 strives to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.
However, when we look at the updates on SDG 3, particularly Target 3. C, we see that there are still significant challenges.
A 2020 study shows that the projected global shortage of health workers by 2030 has reduced from 18 million to 10 million.
Despite the increase in the global health workforce, regions with the highest disease burdens continue to have the lowest health workforce density.
Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, has the lowest health worker density, with only 2.3 medical doctors and 12.6 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 population.
The Role of POCUS
Before we look into the main role of pocus. Here are some of the many key facts about UHC:
Inequalities remain a fundamental challenge in achieving UHC.
Approximately 90% of essential UHC interventions can be delivered through a Primary Health Care (PHC) approach, potentially saving 60 million lives and increasing average global life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030. Achieving UHC is one of the targets set when the nations of the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.
To "build back better," WHO recommends reorienting health systems using a primary health care (PHC) approach. Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) plays a vital role in achieving UHC by improving services, ensuring earlier and more accurate diagnoses and treatments, expediting clinical decision-making, and reducing hospital stays, referrals, and extra costs.
POCUS is integral to achieving both UHC and SDG 3: How?
Improved access: It expands access to diagnostic imaging, reducing the need for patients to travel long distances.
Early Intervention: POCUS aids in early diagnosis, preventing disease progression.
Remote Consultations: It's valuable in telemedicine, assessing patients from a distance.
This is where organisations like Worldwide Radiology come into play. WWR is making POCUS services and training accessible to LMICs through international collaboration, delivering training and facilitating information exchange among medical practitioners and scholars between the UK and various African countries.
The Global Initiatives: Worldwide Radiology
The Lancet has emphasised that POCUS is a promising task-shifting approach, moving sonographic imaging from radiology departments to frontline healthcare. WWR aims to help the world move closer to achieving this by training frontline healthcare workers in Africa. Currently,
WWR has such ongoing projects in West Africa (Ghana) and Southern Africa (Malawi), with several more in the pipeline.
These projects focus on training, research, and creating sustainable solutions that prioritise the quality of POCUS services to save lives where it is needed most.
Join the Cause
You can also stay updated on our social media pages and subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you don't miss similar articles and updates on WWR's work.
In our quest for UHC and SDG 3, POCUS is not just a technology; it's a beacon of hope, bringing quality healthcare closer to those who need it most.
Point Of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) Bridging healthcare gaps for Universal Health Coverage