Echocardiograms (ECG) provide valuable insights into our heart health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of time and study to learn how to read them accurately. In the past, patients had to wait for an appointment with their doctor to get their test results.
Telehealth solutions have opened up new opportunities to technicians and patients alike. Read on to learn more about telecardiology, as well as nine helpful tips to improve your echocardiogram reads.
What Is Telecardiology
Telehealth solutions allow patients to receive medical care and diagnostics remotely. This provides doctors with the ability to give advice, diagnosis, and monitoring without having to see their patients in person.
Telecardiology is one type of telehealth solution. It involves the study and treatment of different types of heart disease. Some telecardiology services include echocardiogram reads, CT angiograms, and vascular ultrasound studies.
Tips for Accurate Echocardiogram Reads
Echocardiograms are one of the easiest and most reliable methods to discovering heart issues. Whether you are a curious patient or a telecardiology technician, accurate echo reads are essential for the early diagnosis of heart conditions. These nine tips will help you improve your echocardiogram interpretation.
1. Make Sure You Know the Basics
Establishing a foundational understanding is the first step to perfecting your echo reads. When you look at an ECG you must be able to identify the different waves and intervals. You should also know the length of time represented by both the large and small boxes on the graph.
Make sure to verify information such as patient name and date of birth before analysis. You should also confirm the ECG date, time, and calibration.
2. Start With Heart Rate
Heart rate is one of the first pieces of information you should determine during your echocardiogram reads.
Start by determining whether you are dealing with a normal or irregular beat. If the heartbeat is regular, use the R-intervals to calculate heartbeats per minute. Don’t forget to consider the patient’s age, weight, and preexisting conditions when deciding whether their heart rate falls into a healthy range.
3. Understand Abnormal Rhythms
Once the graph of a normal rhythm is imprinted on your brain, you’ll be able to identify an abnormal rhythm. Misfiring or overactive electrical impulses are often the cause of an abnormal heartbeat.
Many heart issues, such as atrial or ventricular fibrillation, are identifiable by their distinctive graphs. Other issues will cause subtle changes in the echocardiogram and might require further investigation.
4. Learn About Different Conditions
Similar to the way different rhythms have a distinctive impact on ECGs, so do different heart conditions. Some of these heart conditions include:
- Leaky valves
- Chamber hypertrophy
- Blood vessel blockages
- Acute heart attack
- Cardiac ischemia
- Nervous bundle blockages
Understanding how different heart conditions affect the results of an echocardiogram will help you identify and treat these problems more effectively.
5. Talk to Your Patient
Although an echocardiogram can tell you a lot, it can’t tell you everything. Having a quick conversation with your patient can work wonders, especially in difficult cases.
Ask them for details about their symptoms and any preexisting conditions. This information will help you eliminate possibilities as well as draw your attention to details you may have overlooked.
6. Compare to Previous Reads
Some issues are so small that they go unnoticed. Other issues develop slowly over time. Cover all of your bases by comparing the patient’s current echo read with previous ones.
This practice is great for monitoring the progress of various heart conditions. At times you might even find discrepancies on previous reads that were overlooked by other technicians.
Deepen your understanding of echocardiograms with constant study and practice. Take time to examine both textbook examples and real-case scenarios. Over time you will begin to notice patterns and irregularities with ease.
Practicing your reads will also expand your knowledge base. It exposes you to heart conditions and diseases you may not have encountered before.
Another way to further your study is to spend some time in an operating room. This provides you with a keen understanding of different pathologies and deformities. If watching heart surgery in person isn’t an option, there are plenty of videos available online.
8. Seek Guidance
Becoming a telecardiology expert takes years of experience and thousands of hours of practice. Mentors are an invaluable resource because they have been where you are now. They will assist you by pointing out errors and areas for improvement.
Mentors are also great for bolstering your confidence. Approach your mentor for validation or reassurance when you are in doubt.
9. Teach Your Peers
The surest way to reinforce what you know is by teaching it to someone else. While teaching, you may discover gaps in your knowledge base. If your student asks a question you can’t answer, then it might be time to review some of the basics.
Improve your echocardiogram reads by brushing up on the basics and expanding your knowledge base. As you continue to familiarize yourself with different conditions, you will gain the confidence required to excel.
As the medical industry continues to evolve, end-to-end telehealth solutions will become more vital than ever. Whether you’re looking for telepathology, teleradiology, or telecardiology services, we can help.