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Your Y2K Final Option--Crisis Command Center.

It comes down to choosing between doing nothing and managing the crisis.

The main factor deterring the healthcare industry's Year 2000 readiness assessment has been access to current, reliable data. Without reliable data it has been impossible to benchmark an individual organization's progress against the industry as a whole. But two surveys recently released by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) address this lack, and carry timely news.

These reports measure the readiness status of two important healthcare industry sectors: Medicare providers and managed care organizations (MCO). The surveys, conducted for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), found that in both sectors, readiness efforts were below desired levels.

The two surveys are the most comprehensive and authoritative available, presenting a balanced perspective on the overall level of the healthcare industry's Y2K readiness. Taken together, they warn of possible industry-wide shortfalls.

Industry Readiness Lagging

The Medicare provider survey sampled hospitals, physicians, nursing facilities, home-health agencies, and durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, measuring the readiness of their billing systems, medical record systems, and biomedical equipment. Billing systems were the most ready of the three categories, and biomedical equipment the least ready.

Despite its highest ranking, even in the billing systems category only 53 percent of hospitals and 50 percent of physicians were found to be Y2K-ready. In the lowest ranking category, biomedical equipment, a range of only six percentage points (21% to 27%) separated the five provider types surveyed.

This could be interpreted as meaning 48 percent of all Medicare providers' billing systems and 75 percent of their biomedical equipment could have Year 2000 readiness concerns. This lack of readiness persists with less than two months remaining until Millennium Day.

The Year 2000 readiness status of MCOs is even more revealing. Seventy-eight percent of all MCOs contracting with Medicare reported that they are not Y2K-ready. Given that MCOs provide healthcare to more than 25 percent of the population, the need for contingency planning will be necessary to respond to Year 2000 issues.

Two Choices: One Viable Option

Now that time has ruled out a standard remediation approach, there are only two options left: do nothing, or manage the crisis as it may happen.

The do nothing option presents a potentially greater liability status than that of disruption alone. The recently signed Y2K Readiness and Responsibility Act will not protect organizations that refuse to act prudently.

Section #302, "Limitation on Bystander Liability for Year 2000 Failures," specifically references defendant liability. It reads: "the defendant shall not be liable unless the plaintiff, in addition to establishing all other requisite elements of the claim, proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant actually knew or recklessly disregarded a known and substantial risk that such failure (Y2K-related) would occur." It will be difficult to argue that doing nothing demonstrates anything other than a reckless disregard for a "known and substantial risk" of failure.

It may be too late to prevent some Year 2000-related problems from happening. This is certainly true for the Year 2000-unready and may well be true for the Y2K-prepared. Realistically, there is no guarantee that even the best available remediation could eliminate or prevent every possible Y2K-related problem. Given this caveat, it is imperative for organizations to adopt proactive crisis management strategies.

Crisis Center Approach

The best way to implement a proactive response to Y2K issues is through developing a Crisis Command Center to provide healthcare managers with an in-place problem management structure. This structure will give the Y2K-unready a means to achieve a measure of Y2K problem control and will afford the Y2K-ready a procedure to react to areas that might have been missed in their remediation program.

Adequate time remains to purchase software, train staff, and coordinate all other activities necessary to be ready to respond to Y2K. A Crisis Command Center can be planned, staffed, and made operational in approximately 60 days with the proper resources dedicated. Developing the center will involve acquiring appropriate software, training staff, and planning physical set up.

Specialized software acquisition is necessary because a comprehensive crisis management command system must be able to identify, monitor, and control responses to any Year 2000 system date-related (or any other immediate, post-Y2K) event. Information regarding Year 2000 Enterprisewide Continuity Management software may be found on the Websites of two software research groups:the GIGA Group (http://www.gigaweb.com); and the Aberdeen Group (http://www.aberdeen.com).

Year 2000 crisis management will consist of policy decisions regarding how to best cope with operational management of anticipated problems, and the operational planning consistent with meeting the policy objectives. The transcendent problem is how to manage immediate post Y2K incident reporting and response resources allocation.

Making Remediation Possible

An emergency management system can produce summary statistics that will make retrospective tradeoff analysis regarding Y2K remediation efforts possible. Emergency management systems software offers a reasonable, cost-effective solution to software problems.

Fortunately, commercial Crisis Command Center software is available that highlights business continuity concerns and offers important opportunities for cost-saving process improvements.

A Y2K-specialized crisis management structure and automated emergency management software can maximize control over and enhance the decision making process if a cascading series of system and equipment failures should occur. A potential long-term benefit of developing a Crisis Command Center will be increased emergency management capability and a greater emergency management process efficiency. This single proactive step will help reduce the risk and provide additional, low-cost risk management insurance for the prepared.

Crisis Center Considerations

Ten issues and associated tasks will dominate the decision-making preceding the development of a Crisis Command Center:

1. How to manage incident reporting;

2. How to assess the importance of all reported incidents;

3. How to direct response to the most appropriate resource;

4. How to discriminate between possible and actual Year 2000 incidents;

5. What ad hoc enterprisewide situation reports should be produced;

6. When to implement Year 2000 contingency plans;

7. How to update reported incident status;

8. How to close incidents;

9. How to control all external and internal Year 2000 information reporting; and

10. When to announce that the Year 2000 crisis is over.

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Richard M. Kadas is a management consultant at Superior Consultant Co., Southfield, MI.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Company Business and Marketing; Industry Trend or Event; Healthcare industry unprepared for Y2K
Author:Kadas, Richard M.
Publication:Health Management Technology
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Words:1038
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