Local News

Hospitals Hope Y2K Prevention is the Best Medicine

Posted March 2, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Anything with a computer chip can be affected by Y2K problems, including heart monitors, ventilators, and other equipment people need to survive.

WakeMedis spending millions of dollars, and thousands of hours, making sure the hospital is Y2K-proof.

Embedded chips power thousands of life-saving devices at WakeMed. Hospital employees have identified 2,700 pieces of equipment whose date-sensitive computer chips could crash. Many of them are in the surgical department.

"We're talking about EKG machines," says Lora Sweeney, director of Surgical Services. "We're talking about all kinds of monitors that are used through anesthesia, or to monitor the patient when they're coming through anesthesia."

WakeMed took on Y2K compliance in 1996. They're attacking every system that might fail, from the software that runs billing and scheduling, to the medical equipment that keeps patients alive.

WakeMed is repairing or replacing every piece of equipment that could crash. Dates on many computers have already been changed from two-digit years to four-digit years.

Hospital officials are confident they'll be Y2K proof by July. But they'll be ready for anything, just in case.

"We will be prepared," says Chief Information Officer Vince Seiniger. "We will be staffed, we will be ready to deal with anything that might pop its head up. At this point in time, we're very secure that nothing will."

WakeMed has backup plans in place in case any equipment does fail. They say hospital employees are routinely trained to handle those emergencies.