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Government queries getting slow response
With slightly more than six months left before the year 2000, many hospitals are still figuring out how to prepare, two government agencies say.
Of 200 skilled nursing facilities surveyed by Minneapolis-based Rx2000 in a project for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), only 33 responded, says Peter Ashkanz, a spokesman for HCFA. Out of 420 home health agencies contacted, only 57 responded. Rx2000 was not available for comment.
The data are so low, however, that they did not generate statistics meaningful enough for a significant confidence rating. "Our sense is that based on the low response rate, no one is thinking about it," Ashkanz says.
A spokeswoman for the Office of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, DC, says her overall assessment is that two categories of hospitals do not seem to be doing well in their year 2000 planning: hospitals in rural markets or hospitals in urban facilities that operate on a shoestring budget. The HHS spokeswoman suggests that rehab facilities assess their computer equipment to see if any of the equipment contains an embedded microchip. This equipment, as well as any billing systems, should be a first priority.
"You’ve got to do this, or your claims won’t get processed," she says. "Medicare is saying that if they [hospitals] can’t bill, we can’t pay. And malpractice insurance won’t cover Y2K problems."
The HHS spokeswoman suggests that providers with Y2K concerns visit the government Y2K Web site at http://www.gsa.gov. Rehab Continuum Report readers can also see the December 1998 and January 1999 issues for more information.
Rehab administrators in a hospital setting should look to their information services department to take the lead on Y2K issues, says Nancy Bleckley, president of Bloomingdale Consulting Group in Valrico, FL. "If your hospital IS department has not contacted you, contact them and ask for a review," she says. "Be prepared to give them information regarding all your equipment and everything that might be at risk."
Private practices and other freestanding facilities should turn to a consultant to identify and coordinate Y2K issues, she says. "There are other more pressing issues facing the industry now that rehab administrators need to be concerned with."
Bleckley says the most critical Y2K issue for nonhospital facilities concerns their medical management software program, which often includes the facility’s billing system. Some medical management software vendors are passing along fairly high Y2K compliance costs to their customers, she says. Facilities that do not have computer service contracts may wish to invest in these, however, as a way to ensure Y2K compliance.