One estimate is that 50% of medical equipment will fail in 2000. This would radically change modern medical practice for as long as those machines could not be replaced. "Mr Tim Murray, the managing director of Infrastructure Control Services, predicts 50 per cent of medical equipment will fail, either completely or through inaccurate diagnosis."
This is from the AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (April 20).
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Australia's hospitals are grappling with the year 2000 problem -- many already acknowledge that machines from ultrasounds, which measure tumours and foetus sizes, to cardiac defibrillators will not work properly come 2000 without remedial action. One survey of a private hospital by Health Care of Australia, the country's largest private hospital organisation, found that although 35 per cent of medical instruments would continue to work in 2000, about 9 per cent would not -- and the fate of more than half of all the machines was unclear.
Although computer programmers and business leaders are fully aware of the Year 2000 computer problem, few appear to have considered their exposure to problems caused by so-called embedded controllers.
PA Consulting's Defusing the Millennium Bomb report found only 44 per cent of organisations internationally had included embedded systems as part of their millennium audit. The situation was marginally brighter in Australia, where 53 per cent of companies included embedded systems in their audits.
According to that report, "Embedded systems are a relatively unknown quantity in terms of their millennium compliance. These systems are present in every organisation and in many cases run business-critical systems and processes.
"Whilst they are relatively easy to detect, the problem most organisations face is testing embedded systems. For many embedded systems it is extremely difficult to move the clock forward, making testing difficult and increasing reliance on the views, comments and assurances of the suppliers of this type of equipment." The potential effects of embedded systems oversights are most evident in hospitals, where much medical equipment and implants feature hard-to-test embedded chips. Mr Tim Murray, the managing director of Infrastructure Control Services, predicts 50 per cent of medical equipment will fail, either completely or through inaccurate diagnosis. . . .
Hospitals and equipment suppliers face severe legal penalties if equipment causes patients harm, according to Mr Ian Wylie, a partner in legal firm Deacons Graham & James. Pleading ignorance would not prevent a prosecution, given the exposure and debate the subject has received in the last couple of years.