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Red-Light Cameras Save Lives

Most people don’t like them. Privacy advocates abhor them. But, really– how many things can you name that save lives AND generate revenues for cash-strapped local and state governments? Red-light cameras are one such item.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shown that red-light cameras saved 159 lives over a four-year period in the 14 large U.S. cities where the study took place. The scientists claimed that more than 800 traffic fatalities would have been prevented during the course of the study if the cameras had been deployed in all large U.S. cities.

The scientists compared fatal car crash rates in U.S. cities with populations of at least 200,000 for two four-year periods: 1992 to 1996 and 2004 to 2008. They excluded cities that had already deployed red-light cameras in the earlier period, and cities that instituted cameras during the later period.

In the 14 cities that used red-light cameras during 2004 to 2008, the rate of fatal red-light running crashes was 35 percent lower than in 1992 to 1996. The crash rate did drop in cities that never deployed camera programs, but only by 14 percent.

Based on these data, the scientists determined that the rate of fatal red-light running crashes was 24 percent lower in cities with cameras in 2004 to 2008 than it would have been had they not deployed the cameras. In fact, the benefits of red-light cameras were actually larger than this. The rate of all fatal crashes at intersections with signals (not just red light running crashes) dropped by 14 percent in cities that deployed red-light cameras, whereas it increased by 2 percent in other cities. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Too Drunk to Drive? Your Car Will Tell You If So

Drunk driving continues to be a serious problem. In 2009 for example, alcohol was a factor in more than 10,000 highway deaths. The same year, a stunning 10 percent of respondents to a survey of U.S. adults said they had operated an automobile while drunk during the previous year. Nearly 6 percent said they had done it more than once.

So how would you feel about a car that can instantly detect whether a driver is drunk and prevent that person from starting the car? You better make up your mind quickly, because scientists are close to perfecting this technology.

“We’re five to seven years away from being able to integrate this into cars,” Robert Strassburger, the VP for safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) told the Washington Post. The AAM, an automotive trade group, is on the development team for the new technology which is being spearheaded by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The anticipated sensing device will look nothing like the breathalyzer machines currently used by police in the field. Instead it will be comprised of tiny, passive, touch-sensitive sensors that are permanently affixed to a key fob or a starter button. The sensors can determine blood alcohol levels in seconds. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Drinking And Driving: 20 Years In Retrospect

A gripping piece by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in Victoria about  drinking and driving and the use of illicit drugs. Words cannot depict this powerful and graphic piece. Take a look:

TAC Campaign: 20-Year Anniversary Retrospective Montage “Everybody Hurts”

“On December 10, 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. That year the road toll was 776. Twenty years on it has fallen to 303. There is still a long way to go.”

You’ll find more TAC Victoria videos HERE.

Your turn

We would love to hear from you. Did this video move you in any way? Did it increase your awareness? We would love for you to share your insightful thoughts. As always, thank you for your time.

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

An “Eyetracker” To Keep You Awake At The Wheel?

While some car manufacturers already offer systems which can alert drivers who are dozing off, the feature is rare, and tends to be quite expensive when offered.

Now, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology have developed the Eyetracker, which provides this functionality at a lower cost and can be installed in any car. The Eyetracker’s cameras track the driver’s eyes, and the system will sound an alert if it determines that the driver is falling asleep. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Driving Safe Cars Can Save Lives

New England Patriots NFL quarterback Tom Brady was on his way to practice when he crashed into a minivan which allegedly ran a red light. His Audi S8 car T-boned the other vehicle a few blocks from his home. A relieved New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft noted after the accident:

“[Tom] arched and prepared himself and we’re just lucky with the glass and angles. We have a lot to be thankful for. It was really a miracle…We’re very, very lucky. Patriot Nation is lucky he had his seatbelt on.”

Was it simply luck or good car design and mechanical engineering? Crumple zones and the passenger cage of a car when built for maximum safety decrease injury. Yet, unfortunately, there is significant variability among safety in cars. Brady walked  away from the accident for a variety of reasons.

As a future hall of fame quarterback, Brady has lightning fast reflexes when analyzing defensive blitzes and options when throwing the football. Quickly bracing himself for impact may have helped. Wearing a seatbelt definitely helped. What may have helped the most was the type of car he drove. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Latest Interviews

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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