The purpose of local imaging societies is to provide specialty education, networking, and leadership to a broader range of imaging professionals. They are segmented into individual specialties that serve a focused group of individuals. In our lean economy, resources for education continue to shrink, and local ultrasound societies must adapt or function in a different manner. Efforts to combine specialties that compliment one another will increase the number of physicians and technologists attending educational programs while encouraging more support from vendors.
ASE provides a model for the collaborative effort between individual specialties as noted in early 2000, when the society incorporated a vascular ultrasound education track at its annual scientific sessions. As a result, the ASE has embraced vascular imaging for nearly ten years. In 2008, ASE altered its mission statement to incorporate vascular ultrasound and added the tagline ‘Heart & Circulation Ultrasound Specialties’ to its logo. Joining heart and vascular ultrasound allows ASE to better address the educational and informational needs of hybrid or cross-trained sonographers. Multispecialty practitioners are often compelled to attend multiple societies’ meetings and pay multiple societies’ annual dues just to meet their diverse requirements. Typically, local specialty-specific societies are sanctioned by a national “parent” society to provide educational credit.
Many factors are driving local, modality-focused ultrasound groups to unite; to thrive they must serve an expanded and diverse group of imaging professionals.
Competing for Vendor Support
The American Center for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) has allowed not-for-profit organizations like local societies to provide continuing medical education units and receive vendor support. This support is to be considered independent of vendor influence. Historically, pharmaceutical and equipment marketing representatives have provided generous monetary support to local specialty societies without apparent “strings” attached. The unspoken assumption was that providing sponsorship to local societies increased their market shares, revenues, and vendor-client networking. ACCME issued a revision of The Standards for Commercial Support in August of 2007, restricting educational funding of certified continuing medical education (CME), CEU activities. This revision affects any vendor with a “commercial interest”, defined as “any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing healthcare goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients”. This severe restriction has impacted the amount of support that vendors can provide creating competition for funding in all sectors of heath care.
Taking Cues from the Imaging Centers
Hospitals and clinics have adapted the same thought process by establishing centers that address the cardiac and vascular needs of the patient in one institute. Imaging centers that support all areas of imaging: nuclear, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, computer tomography, and ultrasound are centered on the needs of the community. These specialties, once combined, can provide total support for the patient’s imaging needs, and expedite communication among care givers involved in that patient’s medical care. Staff who work in these facilities is multi-tasking and doing more with fewer resources.
On a national level the ASE amalgamation of echocardiography and vascular testing has created a sensible “cardiovascular” society. Has this trickled down to the local level? Besides the financial benefits of a hybrid society there is a strong argument to combine group’s individual efforts so that sonographers can share ideas. “How-to” seminars help all imagers improve techniques while gaining an understanding of complimentary modalities, quality assurance, and federal and regional legal issues affecting imaging.