The Connecticut Hospital Association appreciates the opportunity to appear before you today to
present our perspective on the impact of the Year 2000 computer problem on the health care
industry. As in other industries, assessing and correcting the problem is a massive undertaking
for health care providers, and an enormous amount of work needs to be done in a short period of
time. In Connecticut, hospitals and other providers are diligently preparing for the date change
and are committed to avoiding disruption to the health care delivery system as we enter the new
The Year 2000 computer problem presents special difficulties for the health care industry. In
addition to the business concerns we share with other service industries, i.e., the need to avoid
system failures and operational problems in computer networks, desktop applications, and
billing, purchasing, scheduling, and record keeping systems, there are critical issues unique to health care that must be addressed. Complex technical, operational, regulatory, and legal factors must be considered as the challenge of avoiding compromise of patient care is met. One of the most difficult and complex issues for health care providers is potentially noncompliant medical devices and equipment. Microchips (microprocessors) that use date sensitive logic are embedded in many medical devices and equipment and no one is certain to what extent those microchips will be affected by the date change to the Year 2000.
CHA has been studying the potential impact of the Year 2000 computer problem on health care delivery and through a CHA board committee has identified, and is now implementing, a series of initiatives to assist its members in preparing for the date change. One important activity is providing ongoing education and information and establishing a variety of forums for health care providers to share experiences and ideas as to how to address the many Year 2000 related tasks and challenges they face. CHA is also planning several state legislative approaches: enacting periodic interim payment legislation to ensure that the cash flow critical to a provider's fiscal health is maintained, and an expedited certificate of need process for capital expenditures necessary for Year 2000 compliance.
One significant project we are undertaking is the development of a computerized repository of
information from manufacturers and suppliers about the ability of medical devices and
equipment to function properly in the Year 2000. The goal of this CHA Year 2000 medical
device and equipment project is to assist our members in obtaining information to be used to
assess the operability of devices and equipment on January 1, 2000. CHA's Year 2000 medical devices and equipment project will eliminate the costly and duplicative need for each of its members to contact vendors directly and will allow providers to direct valuable resources toward testing and, if necessary, repairing or replacing devices and equipment.
While we anticipate that the number of devices that are not Year 2000 compliant may be limited,
it is critical that accurate and thorough information be available from manufacturers. Providers
must inventory and obtain Year 2000 compliance information on thousands of devices and pieces
of equipment. One significant aspect of this is the role of the United States Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). The Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the
component of the FDA responsible for regulating the safety and effectiveness of medical devices,
has taken a number of actions to ensure that manufacturers of medical devices take appropriate
steps to address the Year 2000 computer problem. We are concerned, however, that the FDA
may not compel the reporting of Year 2000 compliance information by manufacturers because
the FDA may believe it either doesn't have the authority or the resources to require reporting.
The CDRH has been receptive to our concerns and we appreciate their willingness to work with
us, commend their efforts to date, and urge that they be given whatever resources are necessary to
assist us in the critical task of obtaining Year 2000 compliance information.
Health care providers need to devote significant time, resources and energy to the Year 2000
computer problem without detracting from their primary focus of providing high quality patient
care. It is, therefore, essential that we all look for ways to assist in preparing the health care
delivery system for the Year 2000, and there is an appropriate role for Congress in this effort.
Your attention to this issue, through hearings such as the one being held here today, is an
important first step. We also ask that you consider several other measures.
First, Congress should assist the FDA, by appropriating necessary resources, in its actions to
ensure that manufacturers of medical devices investigate and correct Year 2000 related problems,
and disclose Year 2000 compliance information in a timely fashion. Second, Congress should
consider enacting some form of legislative immunity from liability for health care providers that have taken reasonable steps to obtain information on the Year 2000 compliance status of medical devices and equipment. Finally, we believe that federal legislation mandating periodic interim payments under the Medicare program (based on past payment levels) should be implemented to ensure adequate cash flow for providers should carrier and fiscal intermediary payment systems fail to adequately function due to the date change.
CHA would welcome the opportunity to further discuss the important issue of how health care
providers are preparing for the Year 2000, and we thank you for your attention to our comments
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