BACKGROUND: General practitioners increasingly use point-of-care ultrasonography despite a lack of evidence-based guidelines for their appropriate use in primary care. Little is known about the integration of ultrasonography in general practice consultations and the impact of its use on patient care. The purpose of this study was to explore general practitioners' experiences of using ultrasonography in the primary care setting.
METHODS: Adopting an explorative phenomenological approach, we performed semi-structured interviews with general practitioners who used ultrasonography in their daily work. Thirteen general practitioners were recruited stepwise, aiming for maximum variation in background characteristics. Interviews were conducted at the general practitioner's own clinic. Transcription and systematic text condensation analysis began immediately after conducting each interview.
RESULTS: The general practitioners described using ultrasonography for both selected focused examinations and for explorative examinations. The two types of examinations were described differently for each of the following emerging themes: motivation for using ultrasonography, ultrasonography as part of the consultation, selection of an ultrasound catalogue, and consequences of the general practitioner's ultrasound examination. The general practitioners had chosen and integrated their own individual ultrasound catalogue of focused examinations as a natural part of their consultations. The focused examinations were used to answer simple clinical questions and they had a significant impact on the patients' diagnoses, clinical pathways and treatments. The general practitioners considered their own catalogue of focused examinations as their comfort zone. However, they also performed explorative ultrasound examinations outside their catalogue. These scans were performed to train, gain or maintain ultrasound competences or as explorative examinations driven by curiosity. The explorative ultrasound examinations rarely had an impact on patient care.
CONCLUSIONS: This study describes how general practitioners found their own way of using ultrasonography in general practice and selected a personal catalogue of ultrasound examinations that was applicable, relevant and meaningful for their daily clinical routines. This study may serve to inform implementation strategies in general practice by offering insights into central aspects that drive general practitioners' behaviours.