Too late to contract Y2K help, but here’s advice

Employers are likely to seek advice from their occupational health providers when addressing the year 2000 (Y2K) problem, especially if you are their main source of information about safety issues and safety systems.

You won’t be able to solve the problem or answer all their questions, but you should be ready to steer the client toward the right path for minimizing Y2K damage.

These are some points that you can pass on when asked for help with Y2K, offered by Tony Montagnolo, MS, vice president of technology planning for ECRI, the independent health care research institution in Plymouth Meeting, PA; and William McDonough, MPAH, ARM, FASHRM, vice president and national health care risk management practice leader for Johnson & Higgins National Health Group in Boston:

1. It’s probably too late for an employer to contract with a computer consultant to fix the Y2K problem.

There just aren’t enough qualified consultants to go around. At this point, an employer is better off concentrating on an internal response to the problem. That could include hiring a full-time computer professional, but they are in short supply too.

2. Realize that any alteration to your equipment absolves the manufacturer of liability — and most equipment has been altered.

In most facilities, about 90% of your software has been "tweaked" to customize it to your needs, McDonough notes. Contracts almost always state that the manufacturer has no responsibility for subsequent problems once you do that. "That means you cannot count at all on passing liabilities back to the vendor," he says.

3. Don’t depend too much on compliance letters from vendors.

You’ve probably already thought about getting compliance letters from vendors that attest to their Y2K readiness. That’s fine, but don’t count on them too much. You also need to seek independent validity testing and third-party endorsement.

Sources

For more information on Y2K problems, contact:

William McDonough, Vice President, Johnson & Higgins National Health Group, 200 Clarendon St., Boston, MA 02116. Telephone: (617) 421-0200.

Tony Montagnolo, Vice President of Technology Planning, ECRI, 5200 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA, 19462. Telephone: (610) 825-6000.