Develop contingency plan for potential Y2K problems

The contingency planning you do today will make life at your rehab facility a lot less hectic when 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000, rolls around.

"A contingency plan is a key issue because there are a lot of potential points of failure that should be addressed," says Joel Ackerman, chief executive officer of RX2000 Solutions Institute, a nonprofit clearinghouse in Minneapolis on the millennium bug for health care providers. (For contact information, see source box, p. 12.)

All the hospitals in your community should join together to come up with a contingency plan in the event that a system fails in one hospital, suggests Leon A. Kappelman, PhD, co-chair of the Society for Information Management Year 2000 Working Group. Kappelman also is associate professor of business computer information systems and associate director of the Center for Quality and Productivity at the College of Business Administration, University of North Texas in Denton.

He advocates developing a contingency plan among all health care providers in a community because, he says, there are bound to be glitches in the system, no matter how much checking everyone does.

"Nobody is going to have the time to fix everything. We should dispense with that fantasy and focus on where we can do the most good in terms of taking care of the community," says Kappelman.

While you won’t have time to fix everything, you should check to make sure your computers, biomedical equipment, building systems, and other technology are year 2000 (Y2K) compliant. Providers must also anticipate what could go wrong with all their outside vendors, Ackerman and other experts say.

"Contingency planning is important even if you think you are going to be ready," says Jack Gribben, chair of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion in Washington, DC.

Make a list of all the outside organizations on which you depend, and identify what you can do in the event of a failure in one of their systems, Gribben advises. These organizations include suppliers, utilities, communications equipment, payers, and contractors. (For other steps in your contingency plan, see story on p. 12.)

"Until now we were talking about how to prepare. There is a growing realization that we haven’t planned enough or prepared enough and we need to start talking about the recovery period," Ackerman says.

Think through what would happen if your facility can’t obtain certain supplies, he advises.

"If a food service or linen service or medical supply distributor has a Y2K problem, providers should think about how that will impact their level of operation," Ackerman says.

For example, think through what you will do if certain kinds of medication can’t be delivered because of a disruption in transportation or the manufacturing process. (For an example of how to think through a problem, see p. 12.)

Many rehab providers keep only limited supplies of equipment on hand and have a "just-in-time" arrangement with vendors. If a critical vendor’s manufacturing, inventory control, or delivery system has a glitch, your hospital could find itself without vital supplies, such as splinting materials, assistive technology, or electrodes.

Power outages, communication failures

Some worst-case scenarios being discussed suggest that the Y2K bug could cause power outages, communications failures, and other glitches in utility systems. In that case, you’d better have a disaster management plan in hand.

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations and CARF . . . The Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission already require that accredited organizations have a disaster contingency plan in effect.

"Providers need to understand the full scope of the problems and should include Y2K problems, such as utility failures, in their overall operations disaster planning," says Susie McBeth, associate director of the department of standards for the Joint Commission.

While they won’t be surveying for compliance, Joint Commission surveyors will be asking organizations applying for accreditation what they are doing and if they have tested their contingency plan, McBeth says.

Sources

For more information on contingency plans for potential year 2000 (Y2K) compliance problems, contact:

Rx2000 Solutions Institute, 4620 W. 77th St., Suite 245, Minneapolis, MN 55435. Telephone: (612) 835 4478. Fax: (612) 830 0931. E-mail: info@rx2000.org. Web site: http://www.rx2000.org. Rx2000 Solutions Institute is a nonprofit organization that acts as an information clearinghouse on issues relating to Y2K compliance in the health care industry. The organization offers a variety of services, primarily through its Web site. The Rx2000 Web page includes checklists for Y2K compliance, how-to advice, and links to other Y2K internet sites.

Leon Kappelman, PhD, University of North Texas, P.O. Box 305249, Denton, TX 76203. Telephone: (940) 565-3110. Fax: (940) 565-4935. E mail: kapp@unt.edu. Web: http://www.year2000.unt.edu.