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1.  Objective structured assessment of technical competence in transthoracic echocardiography: a validity study in a standardised setting 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:47.
Background
Competence in transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) is unrelated to traditional measures of TTE competence, such as duration of training and number of examinations performed. This study aims to explore aspects of validity of an instrument for structured assessment of echocardiographic technical skills.
Methods
The study included 45 physicians with three different clinical levels of echocardiography competence who all scanned the same healthy male following national guidelines. An expert in echocardiography (OG) evaluated all the recorded, de-identified TTE images blindly using the developed instrument for assessment of TTE technical skills. The instrument consisted of both a global rating scale and a procedure specific checklist. Two scores were calculated for each examination: A global rating score and a total checklist score. OG rated ten examinations twice for intra-rater reliability, and another expert rated the same ten examinations for inter-rater reliability. A small pilot study was then performed with focus on content validity. This pilot study included nine physicians who scanned three patients with different pathologies as well as different technical difficulties.
Results
Validity of the TTE technical skills assessment instrument was supported by a significant correlation found between level of expertise and both the global score (Spearman 0.76, p<0.0001) and the checklist score (Spearman 0.74, p<0.001). Both scores were able to distinguish between the three levels of competence that were represented in the physician group. Reliability was supported by acceptable inter- and intra-rater values. The pilot study showed a tendency to improved scores with increasing expertise levels, suggesting that the instrument could also be used when pathologies were present.
Conclusions
We designed and developed a structured assessment instrument of echocardiographic technical skills that showed evidence of validity in terms of high correlations between test scores on a normal person and the level of physician competence, as well as acceptable inter- and intra-rater reliability scores. Further studies should, however, be performed to determine the adequate number of assessments needed to ensure high content validity and reliability in a clinical setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-47
PMCID: PMC3621521  PMID: 23537204
Transthoracic echocardiography; Echocardiography; Assessment; Ultrasound; Global rating; Checklist
2.  Limited intervention improves technical skill in focus assessed transthoracic echocardiography among novice examiners 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:65.
Background
Previous studies addressing teaching and learning in point-of-care ultrasound have primarily focussed on image interpretation and not on the technical quality of the images. We hypothesized that a limited intervention of 10 supervised examinations would improve the technical skills in Focus Assessed Transthoracic Echocardiography (FATE) and that physicians with no experience in FATE would quickly adopt technical skills allowing for image quality suitable for interpretation.
Methods
Twenty-one physicians with no previous training in FATE or echocardiography (Novices) participated in the study and a reference group of three examiners with more than 10 years of experience in echocardiography (Experts) was included. Novices received an initial theoretical and practical introduction (2 hours), after which baseline examinations were performed on two healthy volunteers. Subsequently all physicians were scheduled to a separate intervention day comprising ten supervised FATE examinations. For effect measurement a second examination (evaluation) of the same two healthy volunteers from the baseline examination was performed.
Results
At baseline 86% of images obtained by novices were suitable for interpretation, on evaluation this was 93% (p = 0.005). 100% of images obtained by experts were suitable for interpretation. Mean global image rating on baseline examinations was 70.2 (CI 68.0-72.4) and mean global image rating after intervention was 75.0 (CI 72.9-77.0), p = 0.0002. In comparison, mean global image rating in the expert group was 89.8 (CI 88.8-90.9).
Conclusions
Improvement of technical skills in FATE can be achieved with a limited intervention and upon completion of intervention 93% of images achieved are suitable for clinical interpretation.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-65
PMCID: PMC3477018  PMID: 22863138
Point-of-care; Bedside; Ultrasound; Echocardiography; Learning

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