A healthy prognosis for Y2K

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< a href=http://www.wichitaeagle.com/technology/y2k/healthy2k0321.htm>A healthy prognosis for Y2K Hospitals, doctors' offices and pharmacies work to assure no real disruptions in the system.

By Karen Shideler The Wichita Eagle

The scales will be accurate -- or as accurate as they ever are in the doctor's office.

The blood pressure cuff will pump up, your pacemaker will pace, the X-ray machine will X-ray.

Your file should be there waiting, just as it always is, when you check in for your doctor's appointment after Jan. 1, 2000.

And the bill will be sent.

In Kansas, representatives from the health care industry -- from doctors' offices to hospitals and from insurance companies to pharmacies -- say they are ready for the year 2000.

Their confidence comes despite warnings from Washington that the health care industry is not prepared to cope with the Y2K computer problem, which refers to what could happen to older computers and computer chips not designed to process the date Jan. 1, 2000.

"We feel that we're in excellent shape" to meet the challenges, said Duane Basgall, director of internal audit for Via Christi Regional Medical Center.

Dave Gordon, administrator for the eight-physician Hillside Medical Office, said, "As far as the patient care standpoint, there's not a lot of things that could happen."

Senate issues warning

A Senate committee warned earlier this month that a majority of doctors and hospitals are unprepared for Y2K and that the lack of preparedness could affect millions of people.

The Senate report noted that many makers of medical diagnostic devices like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and blood-gas analyzers used during surgery have made sure their devices won't be affected. But the report said the medical profession has experienced difficulty in getting information from device manufacturers about their products.

It said 90 percent of the doctors' offices nationwide have not fixed their computers and that 64 percent of hospitals do not have computers that will work in the new year.

In Kansas, the health-care industry said that's not the case. A sampling of hospitals, doctors' offices, pharmacies and insurance companies found that most feel confident they're ready for the year 2000 -- or will be before summer's heat sets in.

Kansas hospitals ready

The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University has surveyed Kansas institutions about Y2K preparedness.

The institute's most recent report, issued in December, said, "Hospitals continue to lead other organizations in their aggregate level of Y2K preparedness."

Representatives from Wichita-area doctors' offices say they are in the same shape.

Gordon says Y2K work at Hillside Medical Office began at least two years ago and has resulted in new computer software and hardware.

Patient records are kept in paper files as well as on the computer, "so that's not a problem," but patient scheduling, HMO referrals and insurance billing would have been had the upgrade not taken place.

Hillside Medical Office already has made patient appointments past Jan. 1, so Gordon is confident the computers will function properly after the new year.

At Wichita Clinic, with its network of doctors' offices throughout the Wichita area, 750 personal computers have been replaced so far and a new records and billing system is being implemented; work is to be completed within two months, said Will Stricker, director of human resources and head of the clinic's Y2K committee.

Backing up equipment

Stricker said medical equipment is being assessed and its readiness "reaffirmed."

Gordon said many of the doctors' office procedures that involve computer chips can be done manually if something doesn't work as it's supposed to after Jan. 1. If digital thermometers happen not to work, for example, the office will use the disposable paper or old-fashioned glass ones it has on hand. Manual microscopes and centrifuges can be used in the lab if the newer ones fail, even though their makers have said they'll work.

The office was without its computers when the new system was being installed, and "we did not stop seeing patients during that time," he said, so they know they can get along.

The biggest headache could come with billing because that requires linking to the various insurance companies electronically, Gordon and Stricker say. But, they point out, that won't affect patient care, and even that process is being tested.

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, based in Topeka, most systems testing was completed in November. The focus now is on getting reassurances that everything will go according to plan for the postal service, banks, utilities and others with whom the insurance company works, said Bob Hanson, public information coordinator for the company.

At this point, Y2K is "a bump instead of a roadblock," he said.

As is the case with equipment in doctors' offices, equipment in hospitals is being assessed and manufacturers are being contacted.

"We're really finding very few pieces that are not compliant," said Joyce McBride, director of information systems at Wesley Medical Center. Wesley is part of the Columbia Health System, which has "done some direct work with vendors as well as some testing."

Prescribing Y2K success

Pharmacies are updating -- or have updated -- their computer systems, too. Hugh Snell, owner of Hugh Snell's Prescriptions, said his most recent pharmaceutical software upgrade requires that he use four digits for a customer's birth year, and he's confident his system will work as it should. In addition, pharmacists are required to have a paper record of all the drugs they dispense each day, so records will be available even if there is a glitch.

"I don't see the big problems in the drug industry that I see in some of the other industries," he said.

Hospitals may already have had some experience with the Y2K bug: An Internet notice from the federal Food and Drug Administration warned that some equipment would fail to work correctly at the beginning of 1999.

For example, one external defibrillator "will defibrillate properly but will print out 'set clock' rather than the month, day, hour, and minute on the paper event record."

However, the warning told users how to reset the device to make it function correctly.

McBride and Via Christi's Basgall say patient care is their first priority in assessing Y2K readiness and will always come ahead of making sure a machine prints out the right date, though they're working to address both concerns.

Hospitals are required by accrediting agencies to have emergency preparedness plans that are updated twice a year, Basgall said. That means hospitals already have such provisions as generators and drinking water "so we're not creating a bunch of new plans here for the year 2000."

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), March 22, 1999


Boy this is good news!

"It said 90 percent of the doctors' offices nationwide have not fixed their computers and that 64 percent of hospitals do not have computers that will work in the new year."

I guess we can change the Senate report to read 89% and 63%. <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 22, 1999.

Phew! The hospitals in Kansas will be ready.

They've broken the back of the Y2K problem!

-- Franklin Journier (ready4y2k@yahoo.com), March 22, 1999.

Sysman, the NORM machine is getting quite comical, because even Y2K "good news" articles always have enough relevant "bad news" to make the case for preparing for bad times ahead. And since NORM has no actual thinking abilities to argue the pollyanna case, the end result is that what little good news is presented gets torn to shreds by the Doomers!

Gives a whole new meaning to "win-win".

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), March 22, 1999.

Well, I guess Bob Dole better move back to Kansas if he want to keep up with his Viagra perscription.

-- Bob Dole (Russell@Kansas.Doc), March 22, 1999.

Speaking of Bob Dole, here's another article relevant to health care:


"Medicare Not Ready for Y2K - Millennium Bug Could Cause Havoc for Millions"

-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), March 22, 1999.

Now I get it! If I need my blood pressure measured, I'm OK. If I need surgery, I up shit's creek. Thanks Norm!

-- KoFE (Hey,wheres@my.paddle?), March 22, 1999.

Now I get it! If I need my blood pressure measured, I'm OK. If I need surgery, I up shit's creek. Thanks Norm!

-- KoFE (Hey,wheres@mypadd.le?), March 22, 1999.

Well Norm,

... The health care industry is heavily dependant on how well their business partners and other organizations have prepared for Y2K, added Noel Williams, Senior Vice President, Information Systems, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation. Remediating ones own system will not go far enough to ensure patient safety after Y2K. ...

From an Odin Group ...

Press Release: First Comprehensive Year 2000 Contingency Planning User Guides for Health Care Industry Now Available, March 09, 1999

http:// www.odin-group.com/pr_release_y2kcontpln.htm

See also comments...

... While most organizations are aware that their systems may fail due to the Y2K, many have not examined how their actual operations will be affected ... The average hospital, for example, has anywhere between 1,400 and 5,000 separate functions that are directly related to year 2000 compliance...

Press Release: Year 2000 Unites Health Care Industry Leaders to Set Standard for Contingency Plans, January 6, 1999

http:// www.odin-group.com/pr_release_phase2.htm

To put this information in perspective read the Senate Report Health Care section ...

Healthcare (9 Pages)

http://www.senate.gov/ ~y2k/Health.pdf

Then also read the Senate ...

Testimony by Daniel S. Nutkis
President and Director of Research, Odin Group, LLC
Public Hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee
On the Year 2000 Technology Problem
Washington, July 23, 1998

http://www.odin- group.com/y2k_testimony.htm

... Im not saying that anyone will entirely escape disruptions within their own organizations, no matter how well prepared they are. But the more trading partners you have, the greater the likelihood that you will also feel the disruptions of other organizations. ...

... When an individual organization has Year 2000 failures for which it hasnt prepared, it will negatively impact its trading partners. Those partners will then be less able to support the next level of trading partners. And on it goes, with each failure piling on top of the last, and everything ultimately piling onto the patient. ...

... There are no excuses for any player in this industry not having a good plan. And there are no excuses for the industry not having a contingency plan that reaches across the entire expanse of health care in America.

See also, NHNE flag about updated information ...

http:// www.nhne.com/y2kreport/reports/0018.html

NHNE Y2K Report 18
Sunday, March 14, 1999

(Source: Barb Cole-Gomolski, COMPUTERWORLD, 03/08/1999)

A group of health care giants, including AETNA INC., SMITHKLINE BEECHAM and HIGHMARK BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD, have unveiled a plan that could keep hospitals functioning if the millennium bug disrupts their systems. The recommendations are available for free on the Web and via industry groups, and are expected to be adopted by much of the health care industry. The plan, developed under the auspices of ODIN GROUP, a Nashville research firm, includes guidelines such as how hospitals can order medications if their computerized supply systems aren't working, how they can be paid if insurers can't cut computerized checks, tips for establishing alternate operating procedures with trading partners, an assessment of the top 150 functions related to Year 2000 compliance and patient safety, and case studies detailing recommended approaches if systems fail. "We are assuming that a certain amount of failure will occur, and [we] are trying to get the health care industry to think about contingency plans," says Brad Armstrong, a partner with initiative member DELOITTE CONSULTING. The health care industry has come under fire recently as being late starting and ill prepared for the Year 2000. Says Dick Hutsell, information officer at CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE WEST, which manages a network of 48 hospitals, "A lot of hospitals are just starting to think about contingency plans, so anything that might help them is good." (JG) Odin alternate operating procedures (in PDF Format, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Odin Group (the premier research and advisory service dedicated to health care information technology.)

http://www.odin- group.com/index.htm

COMPUTERWORLD story source:

Health industry posts Y2K guide

Contingency plan aids millennium laggard

03/08/99 Computerworld has learned that a group of health care giants this week will unveil a plan that could keep hospitals functioning if the millennium bug disrupts their systems. ...


The health care industry complexity level, does require us to dig deeper whenever a happy face story appears.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 22, 1999.

Scales -- digitized, not compliant.

Blood pressure cuff -- not used much in hospitals any more because not time-efficient. Use Dynamaps, the machines wheeled room-to-room. These are not compliant. Not enough personnel to do vitals q40 by "hand." After surgery, q15minutes, no way. Problems -- continuous vitals by Dynamap -- no way.

Ever heard of triage? The most good for the greatest number of people. No time for close monitoring!

Files -- computerized by dates & locations. Not compliant system. Not enough personnel to go hunting for each file. No time.

Billing -- a joke. Nuff said. Not enough staff to go manual. But then, the Docs are already having trouble getting timely reimbursements, and the pay-back system is going down. They ain't gonna work for free, not after being shorted & hassled & squeezed badly by HMO monkeys. Nope, look for the medical profession to take an extended New Year's vacation.

MRIs -- no go. Lab work -- not enough staff to take up slack of non-compliant machinery. Orders are automated -- the whole thing is totally automated!

The medical world has had to cut cut cut cut. How did they do it? By cutting humans and replacing with automation. Y2K OK? NO!

"Hospitals are required by accrediting agencies ..." Right. But what actually happens? Ah, you don't want to know. We were responsible for all this in a big Hospital. Already said it all on other threads. Don't get sick from 11/1999 thru at least 7/2000.

Been there, done that, seen that, quit! It is NOT safe.

xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), March 22, 1999.

Poor Norm! He doesn't even read his own "good news" articles. Gee Norm, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Ding Dong the bug is dead......

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), March 22, 1999.


The numbers you quoted are from the Senate report. The Wichita Eagle set out to investigate based on that senate report. Their investigation failed to uncover such problems. Quite clearly, what the Senate got told was very different from what the Eagle got told. The Senate is a possible source of BIG money, the Eagle is not. Kind of makes you wonder...


Between your post and the original story, we have four specific devices mentioned as known noncompliant - defibrillators (story), scales, dynamaps and MRIs (your post).

The actual failure mode of *only* the defibrillators was mentioned, and it turns out to be trivial and cosmetic. I notice you carefully omitted any mention of the failure mode of any of the devices you listed.

Knowing your stand, am I safe in assuming that these noncompliances are also trivial? Surely you would have gone into gleeful detail if they had presented any real danger? Killer scales, forsooth!

The story says, things like filing and billing have been upgraded, and otherwise would have failed. Have such systems been fixed or upgraded since you quit?

Do you seriously expect a mass exodus of medical personnel at the beginning of next year? Is it possible that the quitters like yourself have already left?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 22, 1999.

Flint - what are you saying here? Health care is going to beg for Y2K fix money? Why wouldn't EVERYBODY do that?

Want to go out on a limb? Try this one. Y2K hits a 10. 25,000,000 people die (the body bag story). Well, we told you HEALTH CARE was screwed! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 22, 1999.


You sound optimistic about health care and Y2K. Is that because you live in Kansas? I think it's safe to say compliance will vary according to state and according to whether the area is urban or rural.

-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), March 22, 1999.

I wonder if N.O.R.M. and H.A.L. get together and play poker on Fridays...

-- d (d@dgi.old), March 22, 1999.


I'm an engineer (I'm obviously not a diplomat). Whenever I hear about any specific device not being compliant, of course my first question concerns actual observed symptoms. My first instinct is to *fix* the dang thing. My second is to figure out if there might be some other way to deal with the problem.

When I see such a large discrepancy between reports based on actual investigation (such as the Senate and the Wichita Eagle), my first suspicion is that anything of real value has been summarized away from us. I do tend toward trusting the people on the ground, actually doing the work and required to handle what happens up close and personal, more than I trust summary statistics dressed up with (possibly) self-serving projections and speculations.

And yes, I think sometimes it's self-serving to exaggerate problems as well as to gloss over them. For many reasons.

I'm willing to take Leska's word for it that a hospital, always a bad place to be, will be much worse next year. But I don't have total control over my future health. If I *must* go to a hospital, I really want as much actual detail of failure modes as I can get. If those digital scales are noncompliant, does that mean I'll get a wrong weight reading, or does it mean I'll get a serious electrical shock when I turn it on? These things are important to me.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 22, 1999.

Flint & Norm: there you go thinking in the box again. Read Cory Hamasaki's saga about how a Maryland physician's organization was bankrupted by a mainframe problem, resulting in loss of service to their patients (not to mention unemployed staff).

Y2K will not happen in a vacuum guys.

-- a (a@a.a), March 22, 1999.


Sorry about the boxy thinking, but we were discussing noncompliant devices, not physicians organizations in Maryland.

If you went to buy a hammer, would your outside-the-box thinking permit you to realize that whether or not the head was securely joined to the handle isn't important? No, what's important about that hammer is the Big Picture - the health of economy, world trade, stuff like that. The fact that you just purchased a shoddy hammer is too small a detail, beneath your Olympian notice?

Well, go think big thoughts. I *still* want to know what's wrong with that MRI, and those scales.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 22, 1999.

Flint, sorry, I often forget that other people aren't so well versed with this equipment. On the surface it does sound trivial, but it is NOT! If it were, the Hospital would not have it to begin with.

Scales -- important. Why? Because a pt's weight determines their med dose, and shows evidence of many conditions. Lungs filling up? About to suffocate? Want edema and CHF caught earlier than code time? Your weight will help the Doctor determine.

Vitals -- called "vitals" for a reason. In a hospital, observation is backed by vitals. Chances are, if your measurements do not indicate a serious problem, you will not be prioritized as needing immediate attention. So much goes by vitals -- condition, labs, exams, what level you're billed at -- all these little instruments take measurements that help the Docs decide. Categorization slots.

MRIs, great tools. One of our patients, a Dr, died when his abdominal aorta burst under the MRI. Won't explain, but they need to be working correctly.

Yes we quit! And after us, many others did. Big expose, written up in paper, pts dying, not enough staff, unsafe working conditions, horrendous contagious resistant diseases without time to protect. Another reason not to be in a hospital near rollover -- personnel already burnt out and overworked under "good" conditions of infrastructure up. We're still in healthcare -- hospice home care. Time to be safe!

Flint, when confronted with ppl with your attitude, wish you could spend time in a hospital so you would understand. If you could cognize what is going on just beneath the surface ...

Now we know why we've gotten so many patients over the years who say, literally, "I would rather die now than go back in that Hospital for one more minute!"

Yep, me too.
Chris is gone until Wednesday -- Anita Evangelista, do you want to explain this in more depth? Already done this on lots of previous threads.

Flint, if you want to understand, just check yourself in around 1/3/2000. Have fun ;-|

xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), March 22, 1999.

Massachusetts hospitals could get Y2K liability protection...


March 22, 1999

Health Beat

Bay State hospitals could get Y2K liability protection

Ted Griffith

The state Legislature might give hospitals liability protection for one of the potentially thorniest aspects of the much-hyped Y2K problem: lawsuits.

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and State Rep. Paul Casey, D- Winchester, have sponsored legislation that would bar lawsuits against hospitals and health care systems for problems related to the arrival of 2000, provided that they took every "reasonable" precaution to avoid difficulties.

Pacheco said, as a matter of fairness, health-care providers deserve protection from liability for Y2K if they make good- faith attempts to head off difficulties. The Burlington-based Massachusetts Hospital Association is supporting the legislation.


For hospitals, this could mean problems not only with computers, but with life-support systems and other medical devices. Hospitals are now spending millions of dollars to upgrade their computers and equipment to prevent failures of everything from computer networks to defibrillators.

Pacheco said the liability protection he is proposing would give hospital executives encouragement to step up their Y2K compliance because they would know that they would be protected from lawsuits only if they took all of the appropriate precautions.

"This shouldn't be looked at as an opportunity to walk away from responsibility," Pacheco said. "There is certainly an incentive in the bill to try to be compliant. Without this legislation, it's very unclear what the liability would be."

Pacheco said he did not know yet when the Legislature might vote on the liability protection. The bill was recently referred for further study to the Senate's Science and Technology Committee.

A survey published recently in Modern Healthcare, a Chicago-based trade journal, showed that some hospitals are lagging in the efforts to prepare for the year 2000. For example, one third of respondents were still trying to figure out the extent of their vulnerability as of the end of 1998.

Andy Freed, director of information technology for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, insisted that hospitals are taking the Y2K threat seriously and are devoting a substantial amount of resources to the problem. He said average spending on Y2K compliance by hospitals nationwide last year was $4.7 million and he said some big Massachusetts hospitals are spending tens of millions of dollars on replacing equipment, testing and fixing software.

"If you talk to any CEO in the state, they will say that this is the No. 1 priority," Freed said. "Hospitals have been working on this for years."

Despite all the work, problems that are out of the control of hospitals could arise, Freed said. He said hospitals should be protected from lawsuits for problems that could not be foreseen.

"No one knows exactly what is going to happen," Freed said. "The extent of the problem could be out of the hospitals' hands. ... The hope is to eliminate some level of the lawsuits that we are going to see. Some people are really expecting an avalanche of lawsuits. That could be the 2001 problem."


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), March 22, 1999.


I hate to be a pain here, I know you're contributing a lot. But while I recognize that scales are very important (and thanks for explaining that so clearly), I still don't know what will go wrong with them. The defibrillator produced a 'set clock' message instead of the date. OK, that's what's wrong with it.

Will the scales stop weighing? Will they produce wrong weights? Will then show a bogus error message but still work OK? Will the MRI machine start bursting aortas after 2000, or what?

I'm just curious. From your description, I'd be better off just wandering out and drowning in the creek than going to a hospital next year.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 22, 1999.

Flint, no pain. Sitting at a computer -- easy!

The digital weight machines will give gibberish data. Nonsense data is no good. Junk. Expensive chairs & coat hangers. Nurses & Docs fill out reams of paperwork per shift. Data, measurements. Not as heart-centered or intuitive as it should be. Mostly cold hard data. All filed in computers. Computers not yet upgraded (Windows 3.1, always crashing, lousy software for apps). Personnel not interested in learning computer programs. Too rushed. Techno-phobia rules.

Back to scales, hhmmm. Used to be, ppl would go into hospitals when they weren't feeling well and the Doc wanted them observed. Now, much more acute, serious, life-threatening conditions. Most pts can't get up and stand on a scale, so many beds have digital scales embedded, yes ;-) These will not work currently, don't know if a fix is in the offing. Beds very very expensive. The entire Bone Marrow Transplant Unit had these beds, weights taken twice a day, very important. Some of those pts sloughed off their intestines or skin within two days so lost weight. Lethal radiation & chemo does that sometimes. Too ill to measure any other way; also, their immune system is totally compromised. Tempting to tell horror stories but will refrain.

Docs & entrails make rounds 1st thing in morning. Who goes with them? A "discharge planning" RN who works for the hospital and the insurance co. Makes sure that patient leaves at the very earliest instant. Pushes the docs to release, families freaking. But she can't drink yet! But he isn't conscious yet! Grandpa can't walk; he doesn't know who he is! He's still bleeding every time he pees! She faints when she sits up. He vomits whenever he moves.
Sorry, we won't pay anymore. Time to go.

We don't see how hospitals can stay open without electricity and water. Some may finangle no-sue coverage, and insurance, and try to wing it. Maybe if they're given massive amounts of volunteer "reallocated resources" they can provide patient care. With enough trained people working, it is possible. The main problem is shortage of help. Much of that care will be comfort care, palliative care, because of equipment failures.

We were in charge of ordering and stocking. The amount of supplies that a floor goes through in 24 hours! The amount of WATER used is staggering. Must wash hands thoroughly between every patient, running from pt to pt & back again, incredible amounts of laundry, etc. A hospital is a place where body fluids tend not to be neatly self-deposited in quick-flush receptacles. Well, we'll leave the rest to your imagination.

BTW, dying in bed is better than dying in a creek. Dying at home is the best. This has been really hard to type because it's too basic! Just pretend to go visit a "relative" at a hospital, look around, use your eyeballs and nose and brain! Go to an intensive care unit. What do you see? Digitized equipment blinking away, worming its way into every possible orifice. Think about it. So obvious!

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), March 22, 1999.


Go do some research. Love to see your "results."


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 23, 1999.

Here's a medical Y2K tidbit I just came across...


Most susceptible medical areas for Y2K

Medical technology is involved in virtually every aspect of patient care. Here are a few of the most susceptible areas cited by the report, followed by responses from Hawaii experts.


They are used in everything from X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging machines to radiation therapy to life-support equipment. The Senate committee report describes them as "Trojan horses" because many rely on unseen embedded microchips.

Some manufacturers have failed to issue compliance information about their units, the report said, and the health-care industry in general has relied too heavily on makers for information when individuals should be testing the devices themselves.

"If one biomedical device malfunctions, it can potentially shut down an operating room," the report said.

Local response: Y2K coordinators say their institutions are testing, and not just relying on assurances from manufacturers.

For example, Ken Leon, assistant vice president for information services at Kapiolani Health, said 3,000 pieces of critical equipment were identified as having embedded microprocessors "and we are testing every one of them."

Testing is 90 percent complete and less than 1 percent of the devices have failed, he said. Bad chips are replaced before equipment is returned to use.


The sharing of information electronically is "the most prolific and potentially the most likely cause of Y2K failures," the report said. That's because virtually every step of patient care is computerized -- from admission, to treatment, to billing -- and every link must be Y2K-compliant or the whole system could be at risk.

Local response: Several hospitals are using Y2K as the catalyst for major computer upgrades that will assure accurate communication between systems.

For example, Kuakini Medical Center is replacing two major systems, including one controlling patients' treatment and billing records, said Donda Spiker, director of marketing and public relations.


Although the report said the pharmaceuticals segment is better prepared for Y2K than the rest of the health-care industry, it noted that drug makers rely heavily on foreign suppliers and subsidiaries. For example, the report said, Denmark produces 70 percent of the world's insulin, critical to the survival of many diabetics.

Local response: Civil Defense guidelines for any disaster planning -- not just Y2K -- include having a four-week supply of prescription medicine.

But Rich Meiers, president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said if that kind of hoarding occurs nationwide it would create more problems than it averts.

Likewise, he hopes hospitals don't hoard drugs either.

He said there would soon be a national summit of pharmaceutical companies to come up with a plan to ensure a steady prescription drug supply.

People should wait until after that to decide whether to stock up, and by how much, he said.


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), March 23, 1999.

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