Panel debates ramifications of Y2K at SCAR meeting

July 1, 1998

Panel debates ramifications of Y2K at SCAR meetingOne thing's for sure: Y2K will cause headaches One of the hot topics in the computer and information technology industries over the last few years has been the year 2000 (Y2K) issue.

Panel debates ramifications of Y2K at SCAR meeting

One thing's for sure: Y2K will cause headaches

One of the hot topics in the computer and information technology industries over the last few years has been the year 2000 (Y2K) issue. Organizations in both the public and private sector have been scrambling to prepare for 2000, when computers will need to process four digits for dates. In healthcare, the potential for problems with Y2K is immense.

The Y2K issue was one of several topics discussed during a Meet the Experts session sponsored by PACS & Networking News at the Symposium for Computer Applications in Radiology last month. The session, held at the close of the Baltimore meeting, brought together vendors' representatives, end users, and government officials in a roundtable discussion on issues important to the PACS market.

Manning Phillips, systems sales manager, EMED of San Antonio, TX:

The Y2K issue is a problem. I was recently working with a large customer, and we were excited about the opportunity to put in a very large PACS. Then they found out they had a $25 million Y2K problem and that their capital budgets for the next 24 months are going to be set aside to solve that problem. I wonder if the PACS industry might be hurt by this issue, whereas the RIS and the HIS markets are growing exponentially, partially in response to this problem.

Dr. Ronald Arenson, chairman of radiology, University of California, San Francisco:

There is a real issue here. Our estimate to prepare for 2000 is $85 million. It is a big price tag. This is going to have a big impact, not only in our industry, but in many industries where a lot is going to be put on hold in order to fix the Y2K situation.

Dr. Steven Horii, associate director, medical informatics, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia:

We now have a person who spends a good chunk of his time with nothing but checking to see whether our equipment is Y2K compliant. Whether or not it's a real problem, it's having a real effect.

Dr. Lawrence Moss, associate professor of radiology, University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA:

I think it is a very real problem, because every piece of equipment and every computer monitor in the hospital has to be checked to be Y2K-compliant. In the case of all of the PCs that are over a year or two old, the bias is that they're not going to be Y2K-compliant, and even if they are, almost all of the Microsoft software-which is what everybody uses-is not Y2K-compliant.

Dr. Eliot Siegel, chief of radiology, Baltimore VA Medical Center:

We've been communicating with a number of major medical imaging manufacturers, and there is some question, especially with some of our older equipment, about whether it is Y2K-compliant. Some medical equipment is positively not Y2K-compliant. One of the interesting, philosophical questions that we've raised in our negotiations with our manufacturers is who's responsible?

Is this a bug or a defect in the software that we bought from them? They're saying it's not their fault. It's those third party computer systems that are at fault, so don't expect them to take any liability as far as helping to pay for the updates and upgrades. My opinion is that this is a bug or a defect in the equipment that I purchased, and I essentially purchased it all from one particular point of contact that I was hoping would take responsibility.

Thomas Lane, director of clinical medical physics, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, TX:

We have multiple vendors and a lot of equipment at the hospitals I serve, and we've only found one piece of nuclear medicine equipment that's about five years old that is not Y2K-compliant. The vendor says that it's operating on a computer system that they don't support anymore and they're not going to support. My response was, "Do you want to risk not being able to sell any more equipment here because of problems with one computer system?"

Y2K is going to be a problem, but on the other hand it's becoming a self-serving industry. We've got a lot of consultants whipping up this frenzy about Y2K compliance who then get hired to whip up more of a frenzy.

Dr. Melvyn Greberman, associate director for medical affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health:

It is an issue of concern to us, and we are exploring it carefully. Clearly, the issues related to adverse events, public health indications, and potential for death are of serious concern to us. For more information, please check the Y2K page on the FDA's Web site at www.fda.gov/cdrh/yr2000/year2000.html.