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1998-04-29 07:45:23


10,000 to 15,000 Vulnerable Medical Devices



Hospitals are facing a monumental problem: How to ascertain whether 10,000 to 15,000 devices will be compliant on January 1, 2000.

Of course, hospital managers must know which are compliant before January 1, in order to avoid liability. Last-minute investigations and repairs will be too risky for managers and patients.

Systems are dependent on systems, which in turn are dependent on other systems. This is a systemic problem.

This is from the PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES (April 27).

* * * * * * * *

"There are potentially 10,000 to 15,000 medical devices that could be affected," said John Grimm, vice president of information services for the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania.

Magnetic resonance imaging machines, CAT scan equipment or high-tech patient monitoring devices all have potential problems due to the coming of the year 2000. These devices contain what are known as "embedded chips" -- computer chips that control certain aspects of the machine's operation, and which may be subject to the Y2K bug.

"The problem is you don't know which ones will be affected and which ones won't. It's imperative to work closely" with the manufacturers, he said.

The consequences of having noncompliant chips could range from business simply being conducted as usual to a total shutdown. That would be a problem in the case of a pacemaker, for example, but tests show that such devices generally should continue working after the clock hits Jan. 1, 2000. . . .

Inaccurate documentation can lead to big problems for hospitals when they bill the federal government, through Medicare or Medicaid, or commercial insurers for services. . . .

One of biggest issues is that many "vendors are noncommittal on their Year 2000 guarantee. Of 400 letters we sent, about 10 said, `Yes, our software is Year 2000 compliant.' The rest said, `We've made every reasonable effort to ensure Year 2000 compliance but it's up to you'" to test it and make sure.


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