About 90% of the hospitals responding to a new American Hospital Association survey said they expect to have their year-2000 computer problems resolved by Dec. 31, 1999.
At a Washington press conference last week, the AHA released the results of its survey of nearly 800 hospitals.
The survey showed that 10% of the responding hospitals won't have their problems fixed by year 2000. If that estimate is correct, as many as 500 hospitals nationwide could experience serious information-system breakdowns in less than 15 months.
The survey also found that:
About 33% of the responding hospitals have hired outside consultants to assist them.
Some 11% of the hospitals have developed a public relations strategy to address community concerns.
Only 22% of the hospitals have developed a contingency plan should their systems fail.
Year-2000 problems are expected to occur when computers read the year 2000 as 1900, which may cancel or shut down some operations and medical equipment.
Last week Congress completed work on a bill allowing medical-equipment manufacturers to share information on year-2000 computer solutions without the threat of government antitrust action.
President Clinton is expected to sign the bill, called the `'Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act."
"We're encouraged; this removes a significant obstacle to (year-2000) compliance," said Stephen Ubl, vice president of government and public affairs for the Washington-based Health Industry Manufacturers Association.
He said that about 1,200 of the 1,900 medical-equipment manufacturers nationwide have passed along to a government-operated clearinghouse information on their efforts to fix the problem.
While 83% of the nearly 800 responding hospitals said they are making equipment changes, only 77% said they had an evaluation and action plan to fix the problem.
According to Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), "it is getting late" for the remaining 23% to develop a plan.