Benefits of Y2K may last long time : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Benefits of Y2K may last long time By GREG KOZOL

Larry Koch entered 2001 in a much quieter fashion than the previous year.

There was no midnight war room on New Year’s Eve to monitor potential computer-related catastrophes at Heartland Regional Medical Center. There was no proclamation that, after millions of dollars and countless hours of trouble-shooting, the crisis had been averted.

Looking back, Mr. Koch believes all that time and money was not a waste. He says the computer improvements of 1999 will lead to benefits extending far beyond the Y2K non-event.

“It was pretty evident that all the money and energy put into testing and upgrading paid off,” said Mr. Koch, the chief technology development officer at Heartland Health. “I think Y2K was an excuse to beef up infrastructure nationwide.”

Heartland Health spent $11 million and used 250 employees to get its computer systems ready for the switch to the year 2000. Other companies, like Southwestern Bell and St. Joseph Light & Power, spent millions of dollars to keep their computers from crashing.

The fear was that computers would mistake the “00” in 2000 for the year 1900, causing systems to shut down or malfunction. Most companies reported few actual problems in 2000, though Heartland saw a brief glitch with one of its computer systems used to transcribe a physician’s dictation records.

Mr. Koch believes many companies that focused on Y2K improvements in 1999 have more reliable computer systems today. A lot of old systems prone to failure were replaced with newer, more reliable computers, he said.

“Systems being used were built on a house of cards,” he said.

Officials from Southwestern Bell said the company upgraded equipment and replaced personal computers. Company officials said it was hard to say whether there were any “identifiable benefits” from Y2K efforts.

Some computer experts said companies may have overspent on combating the Y2K bug. Frank James, president of JSoft International, said it’s possible some companies overreacted and spent more than necessary to prepare for Y2K.

JSoft, a business computer service in St. Joseph, provided Y2K consulting for businesses with just a handful of personal computers and larger companies with hundreds of PCs.

Most businesses Mr. James worked with spent $5,000 to $6,000 on Y2K upgrades.

“We only recommended what we thought was necessary,” he said. “The upgrades they made were necessary and they would have made them in the course of business anyway.”

Heartland officials believe many of the upgrades paved the way for additional technology improvements after 1999.

Mr. Koch said the Y2K initiative allowed Heartland to install a computer system that helps nurses electronically track when patients need medications and other care at the hospital.

“It kind of gives them a check list to work from,” he said. “It’s expected to be a major time-saver.”

Other post-Y2K technology initiatives at the hospital included:

n A mechanical system that prevents nurses from incorrectly attaching an IV tube to the wrong medication.

n Safety needles that are less likely to stick patients, nurses and doctors.

n A link to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City that allows a pediatric cardiologist at the Kansas City hospital to make EKG heart readings of children at Heartland.

n Expanded use of a system that allows Heartland physicians to read X-rays taken in rural hospitals in the area.

n Wireless, portable terminals that nurses can use in patient recovery rooms.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 05, 2001

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