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1998-02-10 11:47:49


Health Care Industry: Life and Death



This report focuses on health care. The industry has not yet faced up to the y2k problem in general. The embedded chips problem affects the industry because of its dependence on diagnostic equipment.

This is from the Mineapolis/St. Paul CITY BUSINESS (Feb. 10).

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Minnesota's health-care players are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the hazards posed by a computer programming glitch that could threaten everything from intensive care monitors to drug delivery devices as the 20th century rolls to a close. But to some, the industry's response is seen as too little and too late. . . .

"That is scary, because that is where we can hurt or kill people if we have failures," said Joel Ackerman, executive director of the Edina-based Rx2000 Solutions Institute, which serves as an educator and a clearinghouse for year 2000 information for the health-care industry. "There is still a lot of lack of awareness and denial that the clock is ticking." . . .

Patient scheduling software, mainframe computers, heart-lung machines, elevators, heating systems and refrigerators must be evaluated for potential malfunctions because of Year 2000 problem, said Vicki Larson, director of the initiative at Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services.

Since anything with a general-purpose chip in it could malfunction, thousands of systems and pieces of equipment are suspect.

While the Food and Drug Administration has yet to report any medical device failures, hospitals are finding problems on their own. Take, for instance, the intensive care monitoring system at a large East Coast hospital that wants to remain anonymous. Ackerman said he learned a couple of weeks ago that the hospital tested the system and found it would go down and stay down at the end of 1999. The problem can't be fixed so the system will instead need replacement. . . .

However, a seminar held last month drew a third of the projected attendance and fewer executives than expected, Johanningsmeier said. While poor weather was one factor behind the turnout, she said, another factor is a lack of awareness that this is a crucial business issue, especially for resource-strapped smaller hospitals. . . .

"I used to be worried about raising too much fear. I thought if we said too much, people would start to tune us out -- that we'd be viewed as Chicken Little," Ackerman said. "But in this case I think Chicken Little is right and the alarm is not being raised."


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