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When Minutes Matter, Ultrasound Packs a Punch

When Minutes Matter, Ultrasound Packs a Punch

When Minutes Matter, Ultrasound Packs a Punch

Doctors do not have x-ray vision, but inside Kaweah Health’s Emergency Department where minutes matter, they have the next best thing. It’s a hand-held ultrasound machine doctors take to a patients’ bedside so they can “see” what’s wrong with their patients, and begin treating them, faster than they can get a CT or test results to confirm a diagnosis.

“It makes patient care better because we can get the correct diagnosis often in a fraction of the time,” said Dr. John Hipskind, an emergency medicine physician and Medical Director of Ultrasound at Kaweah Health. “In the Emergency Department (ED), we need to know, ‘Is this life threatening or is it something else?’ Using ultrasound, there have been cases where within a minute of a trauma activation, I knew immediately without waiting for blood tests or CT scans that the patient had to go to the operating room.”

Point of care ultrasound, also known as PoCUS, is just one of the ways that Kaweah Health has invested in technology to improve quality of care for patients. Last year, Kaweah Health became the first hospital in the world to debut a new, innovative software system, the FUJIFILM Sonosite Synchronicity™, to support the use of point of care ultrasound in the ED. The new system benefits patients by allowing doctors to record and save an ultrasound they have done at the bedside into a patient’s medical record so imaging doesn’t have to be repeated. The new system also allows doctors and the healthcare team to immediately share information about their patients who need help.

“If we see a patient come into the Emergency Department with chest pain and shortness of breath, we can do a good cardiac exam in three minutes,” Hipskind said. “If we saw there was fluid surrounding the patient’s heart that needed to be removed, we could put the ultrasound in the medical record and the cardiovascular surgeon and anesthesiologist could log in, see the images, agree, and get ready in the operating room.”

Because Synchronicity™ has a shallow learning curve, Kaweah Health resident physicians can do ultrasounds with minimal assistance. The study becomes part of the patient's chart, but Kaweah Health can also use the information to count to credential physicians and remain in good standing as an accredited trauma center.

The use of PoCUS in the Emergency Department has also led to the development of Kaweah Health’s new emergency ultrasound fellowship. Established in 2020, the one-year fellowship is for physicians who want to take a deeper dive into ultrasound and its benefits. The program is one of only four Clinical Ultrasound Accredited Programs in California by the American College of Emergency Physicians and has already garnered applicants from across the nation.

“There’s this strong commitment in the fellowship to fully immerse yourself in point of care ultrasound. These fellows are more skilled at ultrasound, which benefits patients and allows them to teach others and contribute to more research,” said Dr. Hipskind. In 2020, Dr. Matthew Henschel, the program’s fellow studied the use of PoCUS to diagnose COVID-19 and how it compared to point of care swabs.

“It’s been a labor of love, really, into that arena of medicine where we can really improve the quality of patient care,” Hipskind said.

What’s New

Here are two of the newest pieces of technology that Kaweah Health is using to provide world-class care to the community.

Endoscopic Ultrasound

Kaweah Health is now home to the Hitachi Arietta 850, the top of the line endoscopic ultrasound platform, helping doctors diagnose abdominal or chest pain. With this piece of technology, physicians get clearer and very detailed images of subtle legions in the pancreas or liver to ensure the right diagnosis and course of treatment.

The ROSA® knee system

This fall, Kaweah Health welcomes the ROSA Knee System, which offers a surgical procedure that is similar to traditional total knee replacement, but with a robotic assistant. Surgeons use the ROSA for a minimally-invasive approach that offers the following benefits:

  • Smaller incisions with reduced scarring and minimal blood loss
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Shorter hospital stay and recovery period
  • Quicker return to daily activities
  • Lower incidence of complications
  • Precise placement of the implant
  • Reduced injury to adjacent tissues
  • Increased longevity of the implant

For more information, call 559-624-3800 or visit