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$50 software tells you what you need to know
Don’t assume anything when determining if your computer hardware and software will work in the year 2000 (Y2K), advises Joel Ackerman, executive director of Rx2000 Solutions Institute in Minneapolis, a nonprofit clearinghouse of information about the Y2K problem. That means checking and rechecking every piece of equipment and software you have.
Here are some tips on how to make sure your practice won’t be affected by Y2K problems:
Make a list of every piece of hardware and software you use, and note the compliance status of each item on the list. Many manufacturers will supply lists of compliant and noncompliant products. Check the serial numbers, not the model numbers. Identical products often have chips from different manufacturers or are made at different times.
Consider using an off-the-shelf software program, such as Norton 2000, to check out your software, hardware, and data. These products, generally available for around $50, tell you if your computer is compliant and what you need to do to make it compliant, says Ed Cox of Networked Financial Systems, a financial accounting system integration consulting firm in Houston.
It’s possible to download a cheap "shareware" program from the Internet, Cox says, but he recommends buying commercial software to make sure you get something reliable.
If you use a patient accounting software package or any other kind of specialty practice management software, it’s advisable to check with the vendor about whether the software is compliant. Don’t just settle for a verbal assurance that a product is compliant. Ask the company to mail or fax you a document that says their product complies, Cox advises.
Assume nothing; always check. The chance of a code being changed inside a computer is very small, but if it doesn’t work correctly, everything on your computer could be lost.
If you purchase any kind of computer, computer equipment, or software from a vendor, make sure your contract specifies that your purchase is Y2K-compliant.
Test to ensure that corrections are in place and your computer system will function in 2000. First, copy all your software and data to a disk or another safe location. Then change the date on your computer to Dec. 31, 1999, Cox suggests. The next day, check the computer to see if it still works.
As the end of the year approaches, consider making paper backups of patient records and other vital data.