February 2000 Bulletin

Y2K bug bites few, but new problem looms

A survey of orthopaedic practices found that for most, January 1 came and went without a Y2K glitch,

But 17 of 190 practices that responded to a survey of the BONES Society did have a problem. Some were solved in less than an hour, others in a few days.

One practice reported that medical records typed directly into the system showed 1900, but the problem was fixed in a few hours. Another practice could not accept new appointments. Entering a date returned the wrong day of the week at another practice. Staff had to enter all four digits of the year.

A practice that upgraded its accounting software in November 1999, lost all balance forwards on January 1. The telephone system at one practice did not convert to the correct date and at another practice the voice mail computer reset to 1980. The administrator at one practice said "our deposit daily report is coming out dated January 1900." All other reports are dated correctly.

Having survived that electronic problem, medical practices now face another that is even more daunting. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, insurers and claims administrators will have to adopt a standard electronic format mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Everyone who holds or transmits medical information–bills, records, lab reports–will have to use identical claim forms, medical records, laboratory reports, etc.

It will require a major overhaul of the nation’s health care information systems. Consultants say it could cost two or three times as much as the Y2K computer fix, which cost hospitals an estimated $8 billion. The department of health and human services is still working on final regulations. Thus far there is no deadline for implementation, but it could be two years from the date the final rule is published, which is expected to be in the first quarter of this year.

The BONES survey found that 139 practices did not know about the standard electronic format.

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