Time Is On Our Side

StephensEvery year it happens, even though every year we know it’s coming. For those of you who live in Hawaii or Arizona, I’ll explain: Despite numerous warnings from coworkers and friends, there’s always that one person who waltzes into work an hour early the Monday after daylight saving time (DST) ends.

“Where is everybody?”

“At home sleeping, Ted. You forgot to set your clock back an hour.”

The cruelty just gets worse from there since the end of DST equates to shorter days, colder weather, and darker commutes home.

Of course, the beginning of DST in April is even more bittersweet since while it marks the nearing of summer, we still lose an hour of sleep—undoubtedly causing Ted to miss the Monday am meeting.

In 2007, everything is set to change —by a few weeks at least. Thanks to an energy bill signed into law in August, DST will begin 3 weeks earlier.

The law is aimed at saving energy, but some fear it may cause more problems than just Ted’s impending confusion. Some technologists are concerned about the software and other systems that rely on automatic time updates, according to an August 8 Associated Press (AP) article, which goes so far as to invoke the dreaded moniker Y2K by calling the DST change something more of a “mini-Y2K.”

“It wouldn’t be a society-wide catastrophe, but there would be a problem if nothing’s done about it or we try to move too quickly,” said Dave Thewlis, executive director of a group that promotes standards for calendar software, in the article.

Most software problems could be fixed by installing patches; and VCRs, DVD players, and other such items could be manually updated, the article went on to say.

But what about medical equipment? According to Stephen L. Grimes, FACCE, SHIMSS, senior consultant and analyst with Strategic Health Care Technology Associates of Saratoga Springs, NY, the time change should bring little more than minor frustrations to the lives of biomedical equipment technicians.

“In the worst case scenario,” Grimes says, “the device clocks that might have otherwise changed automatically may have to be changed manually (perhaps four rather than two times per year if the automatic DST feature isn’t turned off).”

Rick Hampton, wireless communications manager for Partners HealthCare System, based in Boston, also anticipates only minor inconveniences.

“Nearly all of our critical equipment is not connected to a central time-server now, so the nursing staff and biomed techs are already used to changing the times on everything manually,” Hampton says.

Plus, with about a year and a half to prepare and only an hour at stake, it seems that time is really on our side, if not on poor Ted’s.

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kstephens@ascendme