News Briefs

New device developed to prevent wrong-site surgery

Richard Chole, MD, PhD, has developed a new system called CheckSite, designed to prevent wrong-site surgeries by reminding surgeons to take a time-out before the procedure.

The system includes wristbands with microchips embedded in them, which are placed on the surgical patient. Sensors that correspond with the microchips are placed by the operating room doors. Following an appropriate time-out, a staff member puts in place a sticker that deactivates the microchip. If that step is not taken, an alarm will sound, reminding physicians to do the time-out. The system is in place in six hospitals throughout the United States, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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CA Assembly passes health reform bill

The California Assembly passed a newly amended ABX1 1, which Gov. Schwarzenegger was expected to sign as of press time. The latest version of the bill, ABX1 1, as passed by the Assembly on Dec. 17, requires employers to either "pay or play" for care or coverage and creates a mandate for individuals to have a minimum level of insurance for themselves and their dependents.

Comprehensive health reform could have a significant impact on the health care system, according to a new report by the Commonwealth Fund. A combination of universal coverage and several policy options could result in $1.5 trillion in U.S. health care system savings over 10 years, according to the report.

The report cautions that in order to see real savings and higher value, policies must address overall health system costs and not shift cost from one part of the health care system to another.

Telemedicine diabetes project expanded

A project designed to prevent diabetes-related blindness has proved so successful in California's Central Valley that it is being expanded across the state, with a goal of serving 100 clinics and 100,000 patients, according to the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), the project's sponsor. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults and 24,000 diabetics become legally blind each year in the United States. With regular screening, blindness can often be prevented, but half of all patients with diabetes don't get recommended yearly eye exams. The problem is even greater in the Central Valley, with a high incidence of diabetes, shortage of health care providers, rural settings, and high numbers of poor and uninsured patients.

CHCF's Better Chronic Disease Care program funded a pilot project that uses telemedicine software developed by the University of California Berkeley School of Optometry, expert consultation, digital retinal cameras, and screenings during regular office visits at 13 Central Valley safety net and rural clinics. The pilot led to a $1.8 million expansion of the project to selected clinics across California. For more information, visit