Reporting of preliminary data: time to take our sonographers "off the hook".
The article by McDonald et al. points out the widespread demand for preliminary reporting of echocardiographic data by sonographers, at least in the setting of physicians in training. Such preliminary reporting is illegal in most states because it constitutes the unauthorized practice of medicine. In most states it is also illegal for physicians to authorize sonographers to do such preliminary reporting because it aids and abets the unauthorized practice of medicine. Such practices also likely violate federal Medicare statutes. Lastly, the practice is simply not fair to patients who are deserving of final diagnostic information. Now that we know the practice is widespread among physicians in training, we can conjecture that the demand for improper reporting of diagnostic data by sonographers is likely widespread among physicians in practice also. Now is the time to check your local statutes, change the way your practice works, and adopt a clear policy for reporting of diagnostic echocardiographic and Doppler data.
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