The year-2000 bug affects more than billing systems; it infects almost every aspect of a group medical practice.
Barbara Penatzer and Bruce Orgera, both executive directors at Superior Consultant Co. in Southfield, Mich., will speak about the implications of the year-2000 problem and provide strategies on how to deal with the issue. The MGMA session "The Year 2000 Computer Challenge: Implications for Medical Practices" will be held Monday, Oct. 5, at 10: 30 a.m. and again at 3: 45 p.m.
"What we want to accomplish in the session is give (physician managers) a fear of the potential impact of the year 2000 on their practices," Penatzer says.
Physicians should be aware that year-2000 problems show up in a variety of ways, she says. "People think equipment will just stop. That's a risk, but a bigger problem is a glitch (that means) data won't be calculated correctly. The equipment could be sending incorrect data, and physicians could be making decisions (based) on that data. That's a bigger problem, and we might not even realize (it) right away."
At risk is not only computer software for functions such as billing, but every date-sensitive clinical device. X-ray machines, ventilators, intravenous pumps and glucometers must all be checked. Even elevators and air conditioners may have potential problems.
"Physicians are so unaware of this issue," Orgera says. "Almost universally in 1997, they didn't know about the problem."
Because analyzing every device is such a huge task, Penatzer and Orgera suggest creating an inventory and prioritizing the areas needing work. Clinical devices and billing and scheduling systems should be among the priorities, they say. Because some physicians schedule appointments a year in advance, if they don't fix Y2K problems on their scheduling systems by November of this year, they already face potential problems, Penatzer says.
Group practices also should make sure the hospitals and insurance companies with which they work are compliant, Penatzer and Orgera say.
"Once (group practice managers) have a complete inventory, they must prioritize the things they absolutely can't live without," Orgera says. "They must recognize they can't get to every piece of equipment but must get to critical aspects."
Making sure a medical practice complies with year-2000 safeguards will help ensure the practice's financial survival and will help protect it from malpractice suits, Penatzer says.
"I stress the importance of documentation and due diligence," she says. "If a piece of equipment fails, insurance won't cover it. Did you do everything possible to prepare for the year 2000? Have a plan and make a checklist of how many hours and what equipment was analyzed. Make the year 2000 your top priority. If you don't do that, you have no recourse to what others do to you."
Adds Orgera: "The likelihood of lawsuits is very high regarding the year 2000. Medical group practices must either be prepared to get sued or be prepared to sue."