San Diego Business Journal

Palomar Medical Center has introduced its latest surgery technology , a robot that deciphers the movements of a surgeon's hand to make minimally invasive incisions under a patient's skin.

The device, called the da Vinci S HD Surgical System, cost upward of $1.5 million, according to Andy Hoang, spokesman for the Palomar Pomerado Health hospital district. The system is used to lessen the risk of infection and a patient's pain.

It is specifically used for hysterectomies, prostatectomies and some forms of general surgery. The system was created by Sunnyvale-based Intuitive Surgical Inc. in 1999.

At Palomar Medical Center, a 319-bed facility in Escondido, about 30 patients have been treated with the da Vinci system since it was deployed last fall, according to Kim Dodson, service line administrator of perioperative services at Palomar Pomerado Health, which operates Palomar Medical Center and the 107-bed Pomerado Hospital in Poway.

While the cost of the da Vinci surgery is slightly higher than a traditional procedure, the length of a patient's stay is reduced, on average, by one day, says Dodson. There is also less blood loss and scarring.

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Awarepoint Secures Patents: Awarepoint Corp. received word of patent approval for its real-time tracking system, which is used to monitor equipment and people in hospitals, it said March 12.

The San Diego privately held company has deployed its RFID (radio frequency identification) location system at 23 hospitals across the United States, including Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, UC San Diego's Thornton Hospital and the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park.

A 1.5-inch tag is attached to a piece of equipment (people may clip it to a belt or lanyard) and tracked by sensors that are plugged into standard outlets.

Based on total square footage and the number of tagged assets, the cost averages about $10 to $15 per asset per month.

The sensor networks are used to track assets ranging from wheelchairs that may be worth a few hundred dollars to infusion pumps priced at $10,000, according to Chief Technology Officer Ron Hegli, who said the company was not yet profitable.

The company, which was founded in 2002 and now has 30 employees, did not provide any sales figures.

"We can disperse them throughout the building," he said of the sensor networks. "It depends how many assets there are to track. It could be from hundreds to thousands."

At a hospital with 15 daily operating room cases, annual savings range from $240,000 for the time nurses spend looking for equipment to $19,000 in budget reduction for lost vital sign monitors.

Send health care news to Jaimy Lee at jlee@sdbj.com . She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359, ext. 3107.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story contained an error regarding the size of a tag used in Awarepoint Corp.'s real-time tracking system. This version of the story has been corrected. The Business Journal regrets the error.