Magazine article Drug Topics

As the Century Turns

Magazine article Drug Topics

As the Century Turns

Article excerpt

Can pharmacy

computers handle

the year 2000

problem?

Hopefully, when pharmacists sing "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve in 1999, their computers sitting back in the

pharmacy won't go haywire as the clock strikes midnight.

Computers everywhere, not just in pharmacies, are going to have to be prepared to deal with the millennium factor. The problem is that some software programmers, the brainy arbiters of much of American life, were a tad shortsighted even as the 21st century loomed. They got into the habit of writing years as a two-digit number, as in 99, instead of 1999. However, when the century turns, the computer will read 00, assume that it's 1900, and pitch a fit, so to speak.

The computer industry is going to have to spend "millions of dollars" to correct the problem, said William Lockwood, executive director, American Society for Automation in Pharmacy. "You can't believe how much software is affected. And it's not just pharmacy computers, but home computers as well. I expect there are going to be all kinds of little $49 software packages on the market to correct the problem."

The millennium factor will louse up just about everything date-related in a pharmacy's computer software. Two of the most sensitive databases are bottom-line issues--accounts payable and accounts receivable--said Joyce Fletcher, spokeswoman for Condor Corp. She added that the Pelham, Ala., software vendor is busy assuring its pharmacy customers that any millennium problem was solved last year.

Expiration dating, tracking of prescription refills, age calculations, and even birthday greetings for customers are among pharmacy operation areas that will be affected, said Buddy Burk, national sales manager, QS/1 Data Systems, Spartanburg, S. …

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