he year 2000 has inspired countless newspaper and magazine articles. It has already proven to be a merchandising bonanza, with everything from champagne glasses to breakfast cereal being marketed with a “Y2K” slant. At Winthrop, Y2K has been carefully anticipated with an emphasis on ensuring that all medical equipment and systems continue to function when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.
Lawrence A. Maggiotto, Winthrop's Director, Information Technology, has spent the past two years preparing the Hospital's information systems, medical equipment, and operational infrastructure for a smooth transition to Y2K.
“I think it is prudent to take Y2K concerns seriously,” commented Lawrence A. Maggiotto, Winthrop’s Director, Information Technology. “I’m confident that we are prepared for this transition.”
Winthrop’s planning began in 1997, when the Hospital formed a Y2K Task Force and began a comprehensive inventory of all equipment that might be Y2K sensitive. This included biomedical equipment, information systems, and the Hospital’s operational infrastructure, which encompasses elevators, telephones, heating and ventilation systems, and the fire alarm system. The process included the 591-bed main hospital, all off-site locations such as the Winthrop Outpatient Dialysis Centers in Mineola and Bethpage, the Radiology facility at 120 Mineola Boulevard, many outpatient physician offices, and off-site administrative centers.
Equipment was categorized according to its impact on patient care - either high, medium, or low risk. Within those categories, each device was rated as being either compliant or non-compliant.
“We received information on compliance directly from manufacturers,” said Mr. Maggiotto. “We also relied on a number of external databases.” Armed with this information, hospital technicians performed their own compliance tests on all essential medical equipment, including that which manufacturers specified as compliant. A total of more than 6,800 biomedical devices were inventoried. In some cases, systems - including those deemed compliant by the manufacturer - failed Y2K testing. The manufacturer was notified, and the equipment was upgraded.
“We took a conservative approach to remediating all non-compliant equipment,” Mr. Maggiotto explained. Remediation meant the device was either replaced with a new model, repaired, usually with software upgrades, or simply retired.
Because new high-tech equipment is continually introduced into the Hospital, periodic sweeps are made through the patient care areas year round. This ensures that nothing is overlooked.
Its own internal systems are only one piece of the puzzle; the Hospital depends heavily on outside vendors to supply everything from water and electricity to food and medical supplies. More than 2,000 letters were mailed to Hospital vendors to assess their Y2K readiness.
“We’ve been at meetings with the Long Island Power Authority and our other major supply chain vendors,” Mr. Maggiotto explained. “We have been assured that they will continue to function normally and that our supply chain will be uninterrupted.”
Many experts have cautioned individuals to prepare for Y2K as one would for a hurricane. Winthrop’s approach has been similar. There will be extra supplies available, although the Hospital is not stockpiling.
Since hospitals are required to have disaster plans in place for a variety of scenarios, Winthrop’s readiness in the event of a supply chain failure is well-established, and Hospital-wide contingency plans have been developed.
“We already have procedures in place to manage a potential loss of power, telephone service, or some other external or internal problem,” said Mr. Maggiotto. For example, Winthrop has emergency power generators capable of keeping the Hospital operational should there be a power outage.
Finally, as part of the contingency plan, there will be additional staff at the Hospital to usher in the New Year, including extra nurses. “Our senior administrative team and department personnel will also be here to make sure that things go smoothly,” Mr. Maggiotto added.
Mr. Maggiotto noted that Australia will enter the new millennium a half-day before North America, so he will be monitoring its experience via the Internet and television transmissions in order to anticipate any possible glitches.
“We have taken great pains to guarantee the safety of every patient who is entrusted to our care during this period,” Mr. Maggiotto concluded. “Winthrop has been providing high quality healthcare for more than 100 years, and our commitment extends to Y2K and beyond.”