Y2K BUG: Will Medical Equipment Malfunction?
A public-private coalition of medical groups expressed alarm yesterday "that many manufacturers of computerized medical devices have not yet told doctors and hospitals whether their products might malfunction in the year 2000," the Washington Post reports. The groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said at a joint news conference that notification delays are "hindering efforts at hospitals to determine how they will be affected by the year 2000 computer glitch" and may put patients at risk. Kenneth Kizer, VA undersecretary for health, said the nation's largest health care system has yet to receive year 2000 information from 30% of its 1,600 equipment providers, even though it sent those providers four letters requesting such information. Food and Drug Administration spokesperson Sharon Snider said the agency has only received year 2000 compliance information from about 11% of the 16,000 medical device makers worldwide. She noted, however, that the FDA is "not too worried" -- it conducted its own tests of medical devices and found that most equipment does not need a date in order to function. Stephen Northrup, executive director of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association, said, "The vast majority of manufacturers are well aware of the problem and are working to solve the problem. But they'd rather not identify a problem and not have an immediate solution" (Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, 7/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.