Strategy prepares employees for Y2K

Also addresses impact outside workplace

Everyone has an opinion on the year 2000 (Y2K) issue. Some think that all electronic devices are going to shut down at the stroke of midnight. Others think nothing will happen and that it’s all hype. Whatever opinions hospital employees and patients hold about the upcoming millennium, one certainty is definite: Health information management (HIM) staff who fail to update employees and patients on the facility’s Y2K progress and address their concerns are guaranteed chaos as the year 2000 approaches.

To meet this challenge and avoid certain chaos, some providers are establishing a strategy to consistently inform employees and patients about Y2K issues.

Here is a program provided courtesy of the Southwest Washington Service Area of Providence Health System in Olympia, WA:


We believe our staff, physicians, and volunteers are critical partners in helping to minimize year 2000 (Y2K) impacts within Southwest Washington Service Area health care facilities. The success of this project, and ultimately the safety of our patients, is heavily dependent upon having the human resources available to carry out contingency plans in the event of system, facilities, and supply chain interruptions.

We are committed to providing Y2K information to staff, physicians, volunteers, and their families. This will assist them in making informed decisions about Y2K preparations at home. We believe preparation and planning for possible Y2K impacts outside the workplace will ultimately lead to reduced interruptions of service to our patients during transition to the year 2000.


To provide staff, physicians, patients, volunteers and their families with consistent information and communication that can be used as an aid toward personal preparedness for potential Y2K complications at their home and workplace.


Promote an awareness and informational campaign where the project team members are easily identifiable through the use of consistent promotional materials, such as:

o Identification of internal contacts (staff) for Y2K information through use of:

— team shirts to be worn by year 2000 project staff on the same day, such as Fridays and casual days;

— badge buttons that are worn daily.

o Conduct surveys with staff, physicians, and volunteers to identify information needs and make sure we are addressing the concerns and issues they have about Y2K.

o Conduct open forums/education to give staff access to information about:

— how to deal with patients who have Y2K questions/fears;

— how to better prepare at home;

— what to expect within the hospital with contingency planning, etc.

o Devote time in new employee orientation to the hospital’s Y2K project and available resources.

o Distribution of a comprehensive brochure outlining major topics:

— what is Y2K?

— service areas project status;

— project team membership/roles;

— possible public reactions, such as denial, panic, disbelief, frustration and mistrust;

— how to successfully handle interactions with patients about Y2K issues;

— preparing your family and home;

— further resources.

o Have regular follow-ups to keep the awareness high:

— mini-flyers will be stuffed into payroll checks at three-month intervals throughout 1999.

o Run regular articles in our service area newsletters and other communications to help keep the issues visible to our staff.

o Use Miss Information column in newsletters to address rumors and provide answers to staff’s questions.

o Establish an intranet site that contains Y2K information and links to Y2K resource sites.

o Coordinate outside speakers on Y2K preparedness to offer to our physicians’ offices and affiliate sites to help ensure their successful transition into year 2000.

o Place table tents in patient rooms during December 1999, which direct concerned patients to request the informational brochure if they have questions about the hospital’s status. The informational brochure will also be included in all admissions materials (including pre-admission materials) during December 1999.