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Military Health System Completes Y2K End-to-End Testing

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 1999 – All systems were "go" during a worldwide check of Military Health System computers that track patient care, patient administration and medical logistics.

The successful end-to-end testing validated preparations DoD and service medical departments have made for the Year 2000 computer date rollover. Testing will continue, however, and as Jan. 1, 2000, draws near, DoD and the services will try to stay on top of the complex system to ensure it keeps working.

During the three months of testing that ended Sept. 30 testing, technicians set system dates forward to the year 2000. Then system users simulated transactions for each of the key health system functions. The simulations included enrolling patients in TRICARE, checking beneficiary eligibility, accessing computerized medical information, verifying immunizations and processing patient claims.

The testing also checked whether military medical facilities can deliver health care uninterrupted during the calendar rollovers, medical systems are in sync with lateral systems such as the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System, and that business will continue as usual with vendors who sell DoD medical supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals. The end-to-end testing validated that the computers that support each of these areas are Y2K compliant.

"We put these systems through more rigorous testing than has ever been done," said Lt. Cmdr. Lyn Hurd, Military Health System Y2K program manager. "We pushed through more than 9,000 transactions, then put those transactions under a microscope to see that they worked properly, not just on Jan. 1, 2000, but also for the fiscal year rollover, Oct. 1, and the leap year rollover, Feb. 29, 2000. We dissected them all."

The objective now is to validate any system modifications made since the testing was done and, as necessary, recertify the systems are Y2K ready, Hurd said.

A Year 2000 situation awareness team with representatives from DoD Health Affairs, the TRICARE Management Activity and the service medical departments managed the testing and will monitor the entire health system, at least through the end of March 2000. Team members operate from their separate locations and are currently monitoring the system weekdays. They'll begin round- the-clock operations, seven days a week, as the critical dates approach.

"Monitoring Y2K events around the world, the Year 2000 situation awareness team will put together a Military Health System picture of what's happening in the three services and with our managed care support contractors," Hurd said. The contractors -- civilian providers that support TRICARE by delivering health care services to DoD beneficiaries -- are as ready as the rest of the system, he said.

"We engaged with our contractors very early on to make certain they would be prepared for Year 2000," Hurd said. "They've been full partners with us in all of the end-to-end testing."

The situation awareness team will interface with the National Military Command Center to make sure defense leaders understand how the medical system is fairing with Y2K. On Dec. 31 and again Feb. 28, 2000, they will look for initial reports to come out of such places as Guam, Korea and Japan, where DoD organizations will first experience the rollovers.

"If an impact is observed in those places that first experience Year 2000 (hospitals in the Pacific Rim), we can let the rest of the Military Health System know what those impacts are, learn from their experience and be better prepared in the other locations."

"Providing quality patient care is our highest priority," said Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "I am proud of the proactive approach our people have taken to ensure that the Military Health System is ready for the new millennium."

More Military Health System Y2K information is available on the Internet at www.tricare.osd.mil.

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Related Sites:
DoD Confronting Y2K Web site
U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology
U.S. Senate Y2K 100 Day Report

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