I used to be a Y2K skeptic. In fact, when I first heard people use the term Y2K in reference to the computer problems expected at the turn of the century, I really didn't know what they were talking about. Like many, I believed all the hoopla and hand wringing was an overreaction, and things weren't going to be as bad as some experts predicted.
Today, however, I'm beginning to understand what healthcare and other industries may have to contend with when the millennium arrives. My conversion occurred after extensive reading and discussions with a number of healthcare executives about what their organizations were doing to offset any blips that could arise on Jan. 1, 2000.
I've even had some people tell me it may be too late to do anything about some of the problems that will confront this industry in the next few months as entire systems shut down. I have to admit I've just started to wake up to the potential disruption that will occur as we enter the next century.
Business Week magazine, in its Dec. 14 issue, did a first-class job of fleshing out the severity of the Y2K problem. For anyone in management, it paints an ominous picture.
Undoubtedly, most of us aren't prepared because we are so busy with our day-to-day jobs we haven't paid attention. That could spell disaster because most of us aren't technology wizards, and we assume people smarter than us probably have things under control. Now it's apparent there is a potential crisis on the horizon, and if we are doing our jobs, we need to get familiar with what could happen to us and our organizations.
However, many companies are just beginning to do so, Edward Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, told Business Week. In addition, some top corporations have seriously underestimated what it will cost them to head off the Y2K glitch.
For example, the article states that back in 1997 AT&T thought it would cost about $300 million to fix the Y2K bug. Now the telecommunications giant says it will cost $900 million. Chase Manhattan Corp. says it will spend $363 million. That's up 21% from the $300 million the banking concern forecast in the second quarter. Giant insurer Aetna says it will spend $195 million, instead of the $139 million it projected this past summer.
These figures are enough to get anyone's attention, but they are only the beginning. The GartnerGroup, an information technology consulting firm in Connecticut, warns that total Y2K costs could skyrocket to the $1 trillion mark before 2000, and $400 billion after that. Furthermore, as David Wyss, an economist at Standard & Poor's/DRI, says in the Business Week article, "It's like that Hitchcock film, The Birds: Each time you look, the threat--the cost--just seems to loom bigger."
I'm now firmly convinced the whole Y2K matter is for real. Medical leaders need to get involved, find out where their organizations stand and make sure they are getting valid information from those who head up their effort to avoid technological blips, shutdowns and disruptions. Failure to do so could be followed by litigation and other kinds of complaints. That's when the real money issues will come into play.
Don't waste time, Charles S. Lauer Publisher